What’s The Buzz? Causes And Solutions For Global Declines In Bee Populations
As unimportant as they seem to many people, bees are crucial players in the health of our planet as a whole. The reality of the vital role they fulfill, however, is not something we can wait for the masses to discover. In this article, researchers highlighted the significance of bees for human and non-human animal well-being alike, noting in particular the alarming declines in bee populations, both farmed and wild. The direst possible effects of this fall include widespread crop shortages, subsequent economic downturns, and further decreasing biodiversity. This ought to give the average person immense pause in considering just how vital bees are to Earth’s future.
The researchers begin by describing the above consequences of neglecting the health of bee populations, and then discuss exactly how and why these numbers are falling. They identify eight principle reasons. First, human-caused habitat destruction has severely limited both available living spaces for wild populations and pollination sites for domesticated hives. Additionally, monoculture farming practices have affected both the biodiversity of the environments bees pollinate and the health of the hives themselves via fewer available nectars for them to subsist on. Next, various pathogens, parasites, and pests that afflict bee populations have developed higher resistance to the means by which humans have tried to control them over time, thus making them tolerant to previously effective measures and allowing them to proliferate and destroy both feral and managed hives.
Relatedly, several pesticides common to a huge number of farmers across the global agricultural industry are incredibly toxic to bees. Thus, upon reaching a hive, they readily exterminate it. Fifth, the introduction of managed bees to areas in which they aren’t native creates competition with local populations as well as injecting pathogen stressors indigenous populations can’t cope with; this, in turn, has clear and large-scale human and non-human economic and welfare costs. Seventh, climate change has outpaced bees’ ability to adapt, resulting in widespread die-offs when bees cannot access their typical food sources due to shifts in blooming and blossoming periods. Last, the researchers note that some of these stressors actually interact with each other to create compounding effects worse than those of individual issues.
The bigger problem here is that solving one or even several of the above-described issues wouldn’t be enough. Instead, we’ll need a big-picture approach that fundamentally changes the way we interact with the environment, bees, and the worlds we create for them. Towards the end of the article, the authors offer several recommendations for how to achieve this, noting that we must approach wild and domestic populations differently, as they face unique issues. Some general measures they encourage include reducing monoculture and embracing restorative farming practices; eliminating pesticides where possible but more specifically testing their effects by species, as opposed to simply using domesticated honeybees as stand-ins; redoubling efforts towards habitat restoration; and finally, better understanding the systemic ways in which some of these problems interact to create even bigger issues down the line.
Ultimately, the problem of declining bee populations is solvable, but as with many environmental issues, it will depend on humans’ willingness to make large and in some cases difficult changes for the long-term health of our planet as well as our non-human cohabitants.