With 20,000 different species of bees in the world, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to die out quickly, does it?
Unfortunately, this is the case. Because of lost habitat, crop dusting with insecticides and herbicides and global warming, numbers are slowly depleting.
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” — Albert Einstein.
Einstein may have been a tad dramatic but he knew his shit. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a real thing. It’s when the worker bees from the honey bee colony vanish and leave behind the queen and the younger bees.
However, Albert Einstein’s famous quote may not actually be his words.
“There’s absolutely no evidence that Einstein ever said that. “It does sound like the sort of thing he might have said, though,” claims Dr Michael Pocock, an ecologist with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
The reality is, bees aren’t the only pollinators in the ecosystem.
Hummingbirds and butterflies pick up pollen on their flights and even bats help with pollination. But bees are easily the best at the job because they need pollen, whereas birds, butterflies and bats take the pollen by accident. However, there are underlying issues beginning to come to the surface.
Given their presence in a broad range of habitats, the loss of Lepidoptera may directly impact the delivery of key ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control (Fox, 2013). Moths, which are about 10 times more diverse than butterflies, constitute important prey items of bats and help sustain population levels of myriad other insectivorous animals
CCD isn’t a constant occurrence, but in 2018, 40% of the honey bee colonies in the U.S died. In fact, 40% of all insect species are now threatened with extinction.
"There are many other factors that honeybees and beekeepers have to deal with and we are still losing thousands of colonies per year,” says Elina Niño, who runs the bee research lab at California university, UC Davis.
So, back to the original question; what would happen if all the bees died?
Well, much of our food is wind-pollinated, so we would still have produce like corn and wheat, but many fruits and vegetables would disappear (where would the hipsters be without avocado?).
We would have a less varied diet but supermarkets would be scrambling to buy the last of the apples and almonds, and at a much higher price. A lack of certain foods would mean the closure of harvesting farms, and many livelihoods would be on the line, but we wouldn’t die out as a race.
However, there is still an obvious issue; we don’t want the bees to die out. They are still an important part of the ecosystem, and the USDA estimated that the annual value of pollination is valued at around $15billion. It said;
“Although the domestication of the honey bee is closely connected to the evolution of food-based socio-economic systems in many cultures throughout the world, in current economic terms, and in the U.S. alone, the estimated wholesale value of honey, more than $317 million dollars in 2013.”
$317 million dollars. From honey. You could buy a Hawaiian island for that amount of money.
In short, bees are an important part of helping the world go round, and if they were extinct it would probably cause world-wide famine. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, hey?
You can help save the bees, visit Greenpeace for more information and how you can help in your area; www.greenpace.org.