Pesticides Blamed for Endangered Bee Population


When the bee becomes extinct, what will humanity do?

It sounds like a drastic question, but once the bee ceases to exist, expect fresh produce sectors to collapse; crop yields will dramatically decline, and up to one third of the foods we consume, including apples, oranges and even coffee, will fast disappear.

We won’t face extinction ourselves, but widespread famine and economic hardship will loom on a catastrophic global scale.

To put humanity’s survival into perspective, one third of all foods we consume depend on insect-pollination. This one third largely depends on bees.

The BBC was warning the world in 2014, that as far as important species go, the bee is king of the list. Of the “100 crop species that feed 90 percent of the world,” bees pollinate around 70 of these crops. Couple that with the loss of plants and the animals that eat those plants, and the food chain starts to collapse.

Australia and Europe both reported a decline in native bees, while the United Kingdom is also suffering a similar fate, with crops such as carrots, apples, cabbages, and pears risking collapse. 

In 2017, the United States declared the rusty patched bumblebee officially endangered. In 2019, the situation remains the same. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is developing a recovery plan to help rescue this flying insect by encouraging people to provide habitats and to reduce the use of pesticides. But is it too little, too late?

Only small patches of this bee remain in 13 US states, up one state from 2017. Associated Press has reported a whopping 87 percent decline in the populations since the late 1990s. Once found in over 31 eastern states and in the southern parts of Canada, the situation is now dire.

the bee
Photo Credit: Dan Mullen. CC

However, Forbes reported the decline in 2017 to be far more substantial—95 percent. That’s an 8 percent decline in only a few months. Granted the rusty patch bumble bee was the first bumble bee species to be recorded in the United States, this is a historic decline.

The “agricultural shift from small family farms producing a variety of crops to huge corporate monopolies that produce just one or two crops have destroyed vast stretches of available habitat fragments filled with native wildflowers and terrain that feed and house bumble bees and other native pollinators,” Forbes reported.

Forbes, reporting on the topic again this month, has now nailed pesticides as the main culprit responsible for the dwindling bee populations:

In a series of experiments that exposed the bees to constant light, constant darkness and light, and dark cycles, the researchers found a surprising mechanism by which the pesticide acts. Constant light conditions disrupted the circadian rhythm in 28% of bees. When levels of pesticides common in flower nectar and pollen were added to the bee’s food supply, the number jumped to up to 46%.

“Neonicotinoids are nicotine like chemicals,” says McMahon. “They attach to, and stimulate, neurochemical receptors that are responsible for communication of signals within the brain. So they artificially overstimulated these receptors.” 

This causes bees to “lose their sense of time and navigation,’ reports Forbes, “which leads to broader stress within highly social bee populations and lower hive survival rates.”

And the rusty patch bee isn’t the only winged creature facing a quick demise. Australia and Europe both reported a decline in native bees, while the United Kingdom is also suffering a similar fate, with crops such as carrots, apples, cabbages, and pears risking collapse. 

This is a worldwide problem with a cataclysmic domino effect, and a pandemic makes us more vulnerable. When one ecosystem collapses, other nations cannot pick up the slack because they’re verging on similar crisis’ too.

And don’t think for a second the butterfly will pick up the slack either. They’re also facing a similar fate. 


This article (Pesticides Blamed for Endangered Bee Population) is a free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to author Aral Bereux and DNewsHQ


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