« If bees disappeared, the humanity would have 4 more years to live ». Most of us have already heard this saying. It looks like an invisible threat but it weighs upon us. It tackles questions about the importance of this insect to maintain a weakened ecological balance.
Reasons of the high bees mortality rate
The bees mortality rate keeps increasing for several years. It reaches today 30% to 35 % which is totally abnormal. The main reason is the pesticides. There are other factors: monoculture, the Asian hornet, climate change, parasites and other diseases, just to mention the main ones…
With the growth of our population, our society is always looking to have a production-oriented agriculture. We do not hesitate to pour tonnes and tonnes of crop protection products in order to cultivate more.
The use of these substances is a real ecological disaster and has a devastating impact on our health.
There are different categories according to their function.
As for the bees mortality, insecticides hold mainly accountable when all pesticides are harmful. Moreover, the word ‘pesticide’ comes from the English word pest which means ‘damaging’ and the Latin cida meaning ‘to kill’.
Cruiser, Régent or Gaucho: you might not know these names but they were at the heart of ecological scandals. Nowadays, multinational companies of the agricultural industry would pretend that these substances are not toxic. Even if some of these substances are prohibited in France, they are authorised and spread over thousand of hectares of farmland around the world. Also, they are killing pollinating insects by billions.
Living beings, insects and various animals without adding the human risks, get poisoned or killed solely on the profitability of multinational companies.
Bees forage various different flowers and they need this food diversity to survive. When one plant species is cultivated on dozens, or hundreds of hectares, bees are deprived of food and just starve to death.
The Asian hornet
This insect comes from Asia and has been observed for the first time in France in 2004 in the department of Lot-et-Garonne. It has spread further in the country and its continually growing population represents a real problem.
The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is indeed a voracious predator and the bees are easy prey. Its havocs on the hives, climaxed at the end of summer where it can devour larvas while killing the working bees.
Global warming has an indirect impact on the bees. It would act on flowering plants, which because of abnormal temperatures, would struggle to blossom. Moreover, they would produce less food for the bees.
The lack of food, in addition to weakening the hive, can conduct the Queen bee to reduce or stop its laying. We then observe a rapid ageing of the colony that can lead to its total disappearance.
Parasites and diseases
Like all animals, bees can be affected by parasites or diseases. Besides, in a colony of several hundreds of insects, epidemics can spread very quickly. The major scourges are:
Varroa : a mite that parasitizes all the insects in a colony indiscriminately.
Acariose : a parasite that eats insects haemolymph. The haemolymph can be roughly compared to mammalian blood except that it circulates freely in the insects body when blood stays in the blood vessels.
Nosema : a disease that affects the digestive tract and only the adult bees.
Rags (American or European) : a bacteria that infects larva and is leading to the rot of the colony brood. These 2 rags have similar effects but the American one is more aggressive.
Ascospherosa : a mycosis that mummifies larvas of the colony brood.
The bee, the guardian of ecological balance
During springtime, flowers blossom by hundreds in the fields. This is due to the pollination. The pollination is greatly related to pollinator insects and especially the bees.
80% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects, in which 85% of them are by the bees. In other words, there are around 170000 flowering plants species pollinated by our little foraging bees.
It has been estimated that a colony can visit several millions of flowers in one day. This frightening effectiveness is due to communication capacities between the bees and a perfect organisation of the colony brood. If bees disappeared, it is assumed that around 40000 flowering plants species would not be able to reproduce and would decrease their population or fade away.
The disappearance of various plants species would be detrimental for the environment.
Bees and the humans: common destiny
Consequences of the disappearance of bees would have major negative impacts on the humans. One third of the foods we consume depends on these insects: without pollination of the bees, the loss of cultivated plants on a wide scale would be heavy.
So, we would have a very limited food diversity. This would lead to a decrease of our life quality.
Furthermore, without taking into account the wild bees, the economic value of pollination is estimated at around 265 billions of euros each year around the world. The agricultural industry would suffer huge economic losses if the bees disappeared. This industry has an absurd and counterproductive approach: it would be victim of its own policy.
Take actions for the bees
Here are some links of several associations that fighting for the preservation of bees. Feel free to have a look or two!
http://www.sauvonslesabeilles.com/ : A French general interest association, Terre d’Abeilles acts on a national, european and international level in order to protect the bees and other wild pollinators.
http://www.pollinis.org/ : POLLINIS is an independent European association and without lucrative purpose. It advocates to get the European Union out of the current intensive agricultural system by fighting against any pesticides and protecting pollinators, especially the bees.
https://www.greenpeace.fr/ : Concerning the bees, Greenpeace fights currently for the ban of harmful pesticides and the conservation of their habitats. It also supports and promotes the organic agriculture.
On your own, you can also help saving these insects by :
Consuming as much as you can organic products if it possible. In this way, you are supporting a pesticides free agriculture so it is not harmful for the pollinator insects.
If you have a garden, feel free to cultivate with flowers plants. Do not forget to use ecological products. Stop using chemical fertilizers and other herbicides as there are other alternative.
Make an insect shelter to host solitary bees and their eggs. It is easy and very amusing to create it with your kids!
Support associations by making donations or sponsor a colony brood.
Educate yourself and share information! The more we are aware of what it is going on, the greater the impact on the protection of the bees ! I encourage you to watch a movie directed by Markus Imhoof : More than honey, a documentary about the consequences of the disappearance of bees.