Einstein said that without bees mankind could not survive for more than four years. Honey Bees are now vanishing without a trace and for no known reason. If this continues agriculture will be in a crisis.
For the last 20 years the bee population has been in the decline. Initially perhaps because of the gradual decrease in bee keeping and the encroachment of towns into the countryside.A hundred years ago there were a million beehives in England, but now there are only around 240,000.
In the last couple of years the disappearance of Honey Bees has become noticeable to anyone who spends time out of doors whether in the garden or countryside. Last year one third of the hives did not survive the cold months of Winter and Spring. So extreme is the situation that it seems unlikely that there will be any British honey on sale at the end of this year.
If that does not seem disturbing then we should consider that Honey Bees pollinate 90% of our orchards, no bees means no pollination, which means no apples. But of course it does not stop there either. The effect on agriculture would be catastrophic. No less a person than Albert Einstein noted that without bees mankind could not survive for more than 4 years!
In the USA Honey Bees pollinate one third of the food grown. It is estimated that 30% – 90% of the Honey Bees have disappeared in some areas of America. Honeybees are not native to America (they arrived with the early settlers) but the native Bumble Bees are also disappearing. Once a common insect, and responsible for pollinating 15% of the crops in the United States, they are now rarely seen.
So what is happening? The bees appear to just fly away, leaving the Queen and her eggs behind, it is called “colony collapse”. But where are the bees and why do they do this? There are no reports of masses of dead insects. Investigations are ongoing but the mystery has not been solved so far.
The varroa mite which feeds on bees is believed to be partly responsible. They are just visible to the human eye and many bees are infested with them now and they infect the bee with viruses. This can be blamed partly on warmer weather which favours the increase in the varroa mite population. Also bad weather deters the bees from flying out of the hive to clean themselves in the fresh air.
Some suggest that the radiation from cell phones interferes with the bees’ navigation systems and they cannot find their way home. Others blame pesticides and genetically modified crops.
Perhaps all of these suggestions play some part but the worrying thing is that no-one really has an answer and meantime the hives remain empty. Regrettably little attention has been paid to the process of insect fertilisation. We have just left nature to take its course. Unfortunately it now appears that nature is not managing very well and we may only have ourselves to blame for that.