If you like to eat food of any kind, you may be in trouble.
That last statement may seem broad to the point of being total nonsense, but there is a point to it that you might miss if you don’t keep track of the science of ecosystems: Bees are one the most essential foundations to any ecosystem, and they are dying at an unprecedented rate, especially in the Americas, but also in Europe as well.
Do We Know Why?
There are a good many reasons for this, but one of the most important is the fact that pesticide use does not simply hurt the pests that come to invade crops; it hurts ANY insect that comes anywhere near crops. This includes bees, which are close and personal around any crop that needs pollination, which is almost all of them.
What is happening to the bee population is that the bees are being pushed more and more southward in the different countries where they live, in an attempt to get away from the extremely agrarian states such as Ohio and Illinois that have a greater degree of farmland and therefore a larger amount of agricultural pesticide use. The only problem is that the southern states have much less farmland and not near as much plant life. They DO have a fair amount of plant life, but not enough to sustain a country’s worth of bees in just a small area.
However, there is more to this story than simply pesticide; human climate change also causes massive upheavals in the bee’s lives. Global temperature changes have a massive effect on the amount of bees in a given area; when temperatures rise and fall at rates that the bees are not used to, the bees will eventually die of environmental shock. So pesticide use CAN be blamed and it IS is the greatest cause of bee death, but the human element of pollution cannot be ignored either.
One other massive problem with bee deaths are the sheer amount of parasites that are attracted to hives. Diseases such as American foul-brood can also wreak massive havoc on hives in the United States. So the three main stressors of American hives are pesticides used in agriculture, global climate change, and parasites that threaten the hives.
So, let’s talk about each one of these things in more depth. The biggest threat to bees in general is the overuse of pesticides, especially in the United States where these pesticides are not as tightly regulated. In the US and Canada alone, more than 42 million honeybees have been confirmed dead; more have died since then. The biggest problem can be traced to a very potent pesticide known as neonicotinoids causes massive mortality rates among bees everywhere.
Neonicotinoids are one of the most effective pesticides; they honestly do have very few side effects to the environment around them. They do a very effective job at killing the insects that plague plants that people grow for food, but they do not hurt plants, soil, people, or animals. However, these are lethal to bee populations that are unfortunate enough to land on the flowers and plants that are covered in neonicotinoids.
Since bees are responsible for almost all of the population that goes on in the natural world, they unsuspectingly land on these flowers and plants to pollinate them. In the process, the bees pick up large amounts of the pesticides that are on the flowers. This does not just hurt the bee that picks up the pesticide; often it does not work fast enough for that.
You see, the reason that pesticides work so well is because they are designed to kill a whole BUNCH of insects at the same time, not just the one that happened to land on the flower. Many predatory insects live in colonies, so pesticides are designed to not have an effect right away; instead, there is a long time delay that means that the bee has time to carry the pesticide all the way back to the hive that it came from. I’m sure you can imagine what happens next; the entire hive is then infected by the actions of one bee.
The problem of carbon emissions and global warming cannot be understated either. As global temperatures start to rise at greater and greater speeds, bees have started to migrate to different parts of the world. However, it takes bees a very long time to establish a colony, and the colony is very vulnerable at this time; therefore, it is very easy to mess up an entire bee colony. It doesn’t take much to destroy it.
Lastly, parasites like the Varroa mite can get into colonies and spread disease among the whole hive. However, there is little we can do about natural parasites to the bees; but we CAN help with the use of pesticides and carbon emissions.
Bees are more important to an ecosystem than you could imagine; think of a world where fresh organic produce such as tomatoes, carrots, beans, or cucumbers did not exist, and there was no honey to spread over bread in the morning. We need to take the best care of the bees we have; if they die out, our world changes more than we could imagine. We need stiffer regulation on pesticides and carbon emissions, but for now we need to make people aware that things are NOT as they should be, and only WE can start bringing awareness to make them right again!
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