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.
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.
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.