Within the last 20 years, the once thriving bee population has suddenly dropped significantly. In 2006, 40 percent of commercial honeybees were lost. Beekeepers all over the globe have especially noticed the disappearance in the honeybee population. Now you may be thinking that this decline in the bee population is beneficial because it means less bee stings, but bees are far more important to the world than you might initially believe. Contrary to popular belief, bees make much more than honey. Bees in general play a vital role in food production; bees pollinate the crops that are the basis for food production. It is estimated that bees contribute 15 billion dollars to the increase of crop value each year. Yes, the occasional bee sting can be annoying, but the overall benefit of bees surely outweighs the bee stings.
Interestingly enough, the major cause contributing to this reduction is commercial agriculture. The harmful pesticides that are being used by commercial farmers to kill unwanted insects are also having the same negative effects on the bee population. It is quite ironic that the pesticides used to help food production are actually contributing to the killing of the insects that are vital to food production.
In most cases of bee deaths, it is in a mysterious way known as Colony
disorder (CCD). This involves all of the adult bees seemingly disappearing with no dead bodies remaining behind. The queen honeybee usually is still found alive, but the colony is destroyed with the loss of bees. It is not known what causes this problem, but many consider it to be the result of a number of issues. These mainly consist of pesticides, parasites, disease, and/or nutritional problems.
The pesticides believed to be the primary cause of these deaths are called neonics. The most notable neonic is named imidacloprid and it is the most popular insecticide on the planet. These pesticides are share a similar chemical structure with nicotine and share its addictive properties. Starting in 2008 multiple studies began linking neonics with damaging effects on the environment including CCD. The bees are unable to taste the neonic and when they begin feeding they become addicted. After a large amount of it is consumed it begins to affect their fitness and prevents them from foraging for food. In the end the bee becomes too weak to find food and starves to death. In 2013, the EU and a few neighboring countries began regulating the use of neonics, but they are still widely used in America.
What can you do to help fight this issue? As an average citizen that does not keep a bee colony, you can refrain from using pesticides in a non-controlled manner. They should definitely not be used near a colony and you can try to not use them during midday hours when bees are active and about.
Written by: Nate Miles, Brian Blaine, Liam Snyder