Why Are Researchers Worried About Disappearing Bee Species?

Why Are Researchers Worried About Disappearing Bee Species?

Eduardo and Marcelo, researchers at the National University of Comahue in Argentina, have found that there were fewer bee species reported between the period of 2006 and 2015, as compared to the ones before 1990. Let’s find out the reason for their disappearance and how this subsequently can impact the environment.

Crux of the Matter

Declining bee numbers
Despite the increasing number of bee specimen records, the worldwide number of recorded bee species is decreasing. This decline is alarming, as even the bee record numbers in this database have increased by 55% since 2000.

What Does This Mean?
Even if this doesn’t mean that unrecorded bee species are extinct, but they are rare enough for not being encountered by people. Eg: Rarer Melittidae family of 200 bee species have fallen by 41% since the 1990s and by 17% for the Halictidae family.

How Did They Obtain These Figures?
By analysis of wild bee species observed each year via Global Biodiversity Information Facility – a publicly available platform where both citizens and researchers can record sightings of bee species.

Why Is This Alarming?
Wild and managed bees are key pollinators, enhancing the yield of ∼85% of cultivated crops, globally. As per a 2016 international study, the annual global production of food that depends directly on pollination is worth between $235- $577 billion.

Advantages Of Bees

Act as specialists
Bees have different characteristics that make them suited to pollinate certain plants.  Eg: Early bumblebee’s small size allows it to enter plants like comfrey while Garden bumblebees are better at pollinating honeysuckle due to their long tongues.

Maintain food security
Bees provide high-quality food like honey and royal jelly. They also help in products used in healthcare and other sectors like beeswax, propolis etc.

Biodiversity Preservation
Bees act as indicators of the state of the environment i.e their presence, absence or quantity tells us when something is happening in nature that needs rectification.

Free service
In the UK itself, services of pollinators like bees in terms of the value of the crops they pollinate, are worth £691m a year. This would cost £1.8bn a year for employing people, to do the same.

Read in detail why the murder hornets were on a bee-killing spree here.

  • Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is an abnormal phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a honey bee colony disappear, leaving behind a queen, plenty of food, and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees. Colony collapse disorder could cause significant economic losses because many agricultural crops worldwide depend on pollination by western honey bees.
  • According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the total value of global crops pollinated by honey bees was estimated at nearly US$200 billion in 2005. In the United States, shortages of bees have increased the cost to farmers renting them for pollination services by up to 20%.
  • Varroa destructor (Varroa mite) is an external parasitic mite that attacks and feeds on the honey bees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera. The disease caused by the mites is called varroosis. The Varroa mite can reproduce only in a honey bee colony. The Varroa mite is the parasite with possibly the most pronounced economic impact on the beekeeping industry. Varroa is considered to be one of the multiple stress factors contributing to the higher levels of bee losses around the world.

Murder Hornets On A Bee-Killing Spree?

Murder Hornets On A Bee-Killing Spree?

U.S researchers at the Washington State Department of Agriculture have trapped one of the murder hornets for the first time last week. Also called the Asian giant hornet, why do they prey on bees? How are complex honeycomb structures made by bees anyway?

Crux of the Matter

Who Are These Murder Hornets ?

They are the world’s biggest predatory wasps who prey on honey bees, swooping down and grabbing them out of the air. Several dozen Asian giant hornets can together kill a whole hive and use them as protein nourishment for their young versions. So far, more than 1,300 traps have been set in Washington and their nests are being searched using infrared cameras.

Such mass attacks can kill thousands of bees in a few hours. Thus Entomologists (scientists studying insects) have nicknamed these orange and black insects after seeing their aggressive nature towards bees and protecting their kind in general to build colonies.

Difference Between Bees And Hornets
Hornets feed on insects like flies and bees while honeybees collect plant pollen as their protein. The former can sting again & again, yet survive. The bee dies after its one-time-use stinger rips out its abdomen.

Maths Behind Complex Honeycombs Solved?
As per a new study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the algorithm behind the complicated architecture of beeswax cells has been discovered.

The genus Tetragonula (stingless bees) specialize in building hives in several shapes, from stacks of circles in a bulls-eye, a single/double spiral to a group of terraces. Each individual cell is the landing spot for an egg and a building block for structures 20 levels high.

Digital Model Replicates Real-Life Process
Bees building such complicated shapes without any blueprints actually follow an algorithm. When each bee follows the very same rule in a different part of the waxy hive, an overall pattern is formed.

Hexagonal building blocks are used because they have the shortest perimeter of shapes that fit together tightly, making the most efficient use of wax.

So How Do They Do It?
The digital beehive started with one cell, with the worker bees working on it. Random variables were selected for the new additions to a growing edge which then produces various output patterns.

In nature, crystals grow similarly, with different impurities causing their different shapes. Entomologist Tim Heard suggests that this structure improves airflow through the hive and helps the queen bee navigate her home more easily.

  • Coyote Peterson is a YouTube personality, wildlife educator, and host on Animal Planet. He is best known for his YouTube content, which includes animals stinging and biting him.
  • Vessel is a structure and visitor attraction built in Manhattan, New York City. Built by the British designer Thomas Heatherwick, the elaborate honeycomb-like structure rises 16 stories and consists of 154 flights of stairs.
  • Honeycomb structures are natural or man-made structures that have the geometry of a honeycomb to allow the minimization of the amount of used material to reach minimal weight and minimal material cost. They are widely used in the aerospace industry for this reason, and honeycomb materials in aluminum, fibreglass and advanced composite materials have been featured in aircraft and rockets since the 1950s.