Every year the population of honey bees decreases, and the threat of their complete extinction becomes real. What will our world be like without the main pollinator?
A man can live without oxygen for three minutes, without water for three days and without bees for four years. At least that’s what Einstein thought. The scholar’s quote appeared in 1941 in the Canadian Bee Journal. It follows that the death of bees for humanity will be no better than a global catastrophe: a volcanic eruption, a fall of meteorites or an explosion of the Large Hadron Collider. The result will always be the same.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
The decline of bee populations began in the mid-twentieth century, but has peaked in the last twenty years. There is not a single reason, but the main culprit has been found: it is a human. Agriculture has almost universally switched to chemistry: nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, etc. They do not kill insects, but, according to scientists, they lower their immunity, and viruses do not sleep.
Professor Peter Neumann talks about the plague of bees – varroatosis, a disease carried by a microscopic mite: “It is dangerous because it sucks all the vital juices from the bee. This is the most common bee disease, it is difficult to get rid of these mites, and the treatment of weakened insects takes a long time and rarely leads to the desired results.”
At the same time, often beekeepers do not really care about the health of members of hives and continue their activity at a normal pace, and also carry bee colonies for great distances. For example, in the United States, hives can be transported from Florida to California to pollinate crops.
These long journeys put enormous stress on the bee colonies. And this also leads to the “syndrome of the destruction of colonies“. This phenomenon was described by American beekeepers in 2006.
In the course of such a “disease”, insects leave their colonies and never return to them. Bees can not live separately outside the hives and soon die. The strange behaviour is also caused by chemicals and radio signals, which, according to scientists, drive winged workers crazy.
However, what if bees die or their population drops to a critical level? Will Einstein’s prediction – “no bees – no pollination – no food – no man” – come true?
It is necessary to remember that there are other natural pollinators in the world: flies, butterflies, birds, bats, wind. In addition, not all plants are pollinated by bees. In the past, the flora of North America and Ireland lived well even without them. It was the men who brought the bees there.
But since the great geographical discoveries, considerable changes have taken place in the world. The population has grown and the need for food has also grown.
Today the loss of bees, to which we owe 1/3 of the total harvest, cannot occur without consequences. The Times and Business Insider cite the following chain, referring to expert advice: the higher the mortality among insects, the faster unprofitable beekeeping will be. People will start giving up their craft, and the already scary statistics will only get worse.
Since most of the crop depends on bees, humanity will have to “tighten its belt”: the food stalls will be empty, the prices of the remaining products will skyrocket. And you will no longer be able to rely on other components of our daily diet.
Since some plants will disappear, food will also decrease for livestock, which means goodbye milk, cheese, yogurt and, ultimately, beef. In general, whatever you can say, a world without bees will not be able to afford the current population of people.
Simultaneously looking for a solution to stop the increase in bee mortality, scientists are looking for their replacement. The first candidate is a hornet, it also pollinates plants and collects honey, but in microscopic quantities. For comparison, in one experiment, after the honey harvest, 34 kg of honey from two bee colonies were pumped, and the hornet honey was transferred using a pipette (48 g).
But, as a pollinator, the hornet has long proven itself well. Hornets are even more laborious than their counterparts and are cheaper to maintain. But there is the same problem that bees have: due to the harmful effects of human activity, they also die.
The second potential substitute for bees is humans. Study authors “A World Without Bees” Benjamin Alison and Brian McCollum immerse the reader in a world where people have learned to live without flowers for honey. This is not the Earth of 2070, but the modern province of Sichuan, China. There the bees died twenty years ago, because of the pesticides already mentioned. However, the region remains the largest exporter of pears, which in the world are pollinated by bees and here by people. Thus, workers pollinate flowers manually. Weird, inconvenient, expensive, but it works.
Another candidate is a robotic bee. Harvard engineers are currently developing the new assistant, according to the Guardian. Experimental models have already been invented. Robots with their wings follow the movements of the bee and then pollinate the plants. According to scientists, this project will soon be implemented.
Yet, the world needs bees. These creatures are so much ancient that it is even frightening to imagine how much older and wiser they are than humans. Scientists believe that they appeared about 120 million years ago, along with the first flowering plants.
In Burma, a bee that is 100 million years old was found (see the photo of this amazing creature below)! And about 65 million years ago, nature erased dinosaurs from the “book of life” forever, but the bees survived! And we hope that we – humans – will not contribute to the end of these winged workers, after millions of years of their existence!