There are an estimated 4,000 species of bees in the U.S. (more than 20,000 worldwide). Domesticated bees, Apis millifera, are the most familiar and most studied but are only one species of bee. These are highly social bees that live in human-managed, large farmed hives. Beekeepers move them from one type of crop to another throughout the year. This domesticated species appears to have a tolerance to pesticides that feral (wild) bees do not. It does not face extinction.
Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying. Feral bees are the large majority of bees. They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting. Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.
This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon. These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon. Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.
In a recent study described in the April 22, 2015 issue of Nature magazine a scientific team led by Maj Rundlöf established that bumble bees are harmed by seeds coated in neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides that are chemically close to nicotine). Their report states, “Here we show that a commonly used insecticide seed coating in a flowering crop can have serious consequences for wild bees.”
The report states further that, “We found that seed coating with Elado, an insecticide containing a combination of the neonicotinoid clothianidin and the non-systemic pyrethroid β-cyfluthrin, applied to oilseed rape seeds (for canola oil), reduced wild bee density, solitary bee nesting, and bumblebee colony growth and reproduction under field conditions.”
These neoincotinoid-based pesticides have been banned in the European Union. Pesticide producers and the rest of the world need to stop using them as well. This study, which is highly respected, is a smoking gun that cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately this is only one smoking gun. Bees are subject to harm from a number of causes. These include an array of insecticides, parasites, and pathogens.
As another example, a study this year led by Andrew Barron at Macquarie University in Australia found that bee colonies are collapsing because as bees in a colony die due to any number of causes, younger and younger bees start foraging for pollen earlier. Unfortunately, younger bees die after fewer foraging trips and they collect a smaller amount of pollen. This is how bees react to such stressors.
Their study shows, “Bee colonies contain a precise balance of bees specialized in the different roles the society needs. If that balance is upset by young bees starting to forage early, sometimes the colony cannot cope. There is a breakdown in division of labor, and loss of the adult population, leaving only brood, food and few adults in the hive.”
Our bees however, must be saved for the continued health of the human race. We do not have any way of accomplishing the fertilization the bees provide us. We therefore must eliminate each cause of bee death as we identify it. We know that modern life has created a number of threats to our bees. We must eliminate these threats.
Use the following links to obtain additional information or access the original documents that were the basis of this article.