A bee seen on a flower with pollen

Life on earth is one big concert that influences the progress of all the species in a complex web of dependencies. Honeybees, being one of the essential parts of this system, sustains life on Earth like no other species. As these little critters buzz and hum their way around the delightful blossoms on the planet for nectar, they also spread pollen from one flower to the other.

Among the diverse species of bees, honey bees, bumblebees, and wild bees are the primary agents of plants to carry the pollen around. If they would disappear from the Earth at the moment, the rest of the species would eventually face severe famine and other extreme crisis, lacking that efficiency of these pollen foragers.

According to this study, a sunflower farm with the presence of wild bees is five times as efficient in successful pollination as the ones that only had domesticated bees. The research also shows how the population of one species of bees affect the behaviour and efficiency of the other, proving that every species of the bees are important.

Right now, bees are having a hard time.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Colony Collapse Disorder is the term coined after studies in North America found a significant decline in bee hives over time. Subsequent studies from Europe and other parts of the western world confirmed the collapse of bee colonies, mainly due to threats like viral infections, habitat destruction, honey hunting, and the use of neonicotinoid and organophosphate pesticides on plants. While this term is closely related to the domesticated colonies and hives, it is transmutable and can be extended to the wild species too.

Neonicotinoid pesticides are highly toxic to the bees as they affect the central nervous system of bees and other insects, resulting in fatal strokes and disorders among the bees and other insects. It affects every species of the bees, and sometimes even bigger organisms like birds.

Though most of the countries have adopted a better pesticide policy, and have placed a ban on the use of neonicotinoids in the recent years, there are still farmers who use it in India where strict regulations are non-existent.

What happens if bees are extinct?

In the early 1990s, the Maoxian people faced a situation when bees suddenly disappeared to pollinate their apples and pears. The fertilized blossoms danced alone in the winds, depending on it as the only hope to spread their pollen.

A woman hand pollinating in the orchards.
Photo by Farooq Ahmad and Uma Partap, International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, Nepal.

As the bees failed to show up, the Maoxian farmers hired humans to pollinate them manually. With the help of feathers, brushes made of chopsticks, paintbrushes, wool, Maoxian people worked day and night to spread the pollen from flower to flower, just like the bees would do.

Lucky for the farmers it did work. But the story of the blossoms in the wild and unfarmed regions was not that good. The honey hunters were blamed at first for draining all of the honey around the region, leading to the destruction of hives. Then it got tossed around on the farmers who used toxic pesticides that potentially affected the bee population. In the end, everything contributed to the decline of the bee population.

Today, hand pollinators are a common sight in the northern parts of China where highly toxic pesticides are still in use.

If bees around the world would go extinct one day, it is evident that the rest of the species would fall short of their regular food. Without human intervention and other efficient pollination solution, the Earth would eventually spiral into an accelerated phase of farming collapse, resulting in a mass extinction fuelled by global famine.

How to help bees?

The least we could do to help fight the thinning of bee population is to fight the threats that cause it in the first place. As kids, you can simply start by planting flowers like sunflowers in your garden. Avoiding any toxic pesticides comes next. This simple act could save a lot of bees who buzz around looking for that sweet nectar.

Also, by supporting your local beekeeper by buying honey from them, you are indeed encouraging them to accommodate these critters in a domesticated environment. Beekeeping, when done right, is beneficial for both humans and bees.

Our disregard for the other species had already put us in chaotic grounds today. If this continues, we will face unexplainable scenarios in the future. As the superior species on this planet, it is one of our foremost responsibilities to take care of the rest of the species.


Karthikeyan KCProfile | Website

Karthik is an engineer, gamer, author, and a techie who wanders the realms of the interwebs, exploring and learning. He is the creator of the science encyclopedia Swyde. He loves communicating science online and sparking web applications at Mango Education.


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