A World Without Bees

sweetCan you imagine a world without bees? Entomologists are studying the reasons behind an enormous bee die off.  They call it Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and if they cannot find a solution the 80% of fruits and vegetables that require pollination may not make it to market.   Places bees can forage for pollen without being poisoned by pesticides have dramatically declined, and the cause of CCD appears to be related to diseases from pesticides, but no one is certain.

The European honey bee can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Asia, Australia, China, Europe, North America, Russia, South America, United Kingdom, Wales.   Native to Asia and the Middle East the European honey bee was introduced to North America 400 years ago by colonists at Jamestown and Williamsburg.  The European honey bee is a social insect that can survive only as a member of a community, or colony.

The common name for solitary bees native to the northern hemisphere is Mason Bee.  Mason Bees are solitary bees that build part or all of their nests with mud or plant fiber chewed into a paste. About 140 species of Mason Bees are found in North America out of about 200 species worldwide. The United States and Canada are home to at least 4,500 species of native bee and along with   The European honey bee all are at risk.

Two species of parasitic mite infested North American honeybees in the 1980’s.  Meanwhile,  industrialized agricultural practices overtook former practices, and places bees could forage for pollen without being poisoned by pesticides decreased dramatically.  In 2006 attention focused on  a decline in European honey bee colonies in regions of North America and parts and European continents.  Since then honey bees have  declined within other parts of Europe, including the UK, Germany, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland, and  parts of North America and Japan.

Total losses from managed honey bee colonies in the United States were 30 percent from all causes for the 2010/2011 winter, according to the annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA). This is roughly similar to total losses reported in similar surveys done in the four previous years: 34 percent for the 2009/2010 winter, 29 percent for 2008/2009; 36 percent for 2007/2008, and 32 percent for 2006/2007. A complete analysis of the survey data will be published later this year. The abstract can be found here.  See also Pacific Northwest Honey Bee Pollination Economics Survey 2010 PDF


There is not yet any clear explanation for why the honey bees are dying in such large numbers. It appears that their immune systems are compromised. There have been many theories about the cause of CCD, but the EPA researcherswho are leading the effort to find out why are now focused on these factors:

  • increased losses due to the invasive varroa mite (a pest of honeybees);
  • new or emerging diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema;
  • pesticide poisoning through exposure to pesticides applied to crops or for in-hive insect or mite control;
  • bee management stress;
  • foraging habitat modification
  • inadequate forage/poor nutrition and
  • potential immune-suppressing stress on bees caused by one or a combination of factors identified above.

A new paper from Daniel Favre, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, provided more ammo to the argument that mobile phone signals are contributing to the decline of honeybees. Do cell phones kill honeybees? The short answer is no, there’s no reliable evidence that cell phone activity causes bees to die, according to renowned entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. EarthSky

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Bees are the world’s most important pollinating insects and their dramatic decline in numbers recently has become a cause of global concern. The decline of honey bee populations has brought the agricultural community to the brink of a pollination crisis. The best hope for the long-term survival of many American and Canadian farmers may be the revival of native bees.
There are efforts are underway to increase habitat for Mason Bees and other pollinators in my corner of the world.  How about your corner of the world? What’s happening with the birds and bees where you live?

29 thoughts on “A World Without Bees

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  6. having been stung last year, i am still mad at bees, lol! but because I love fruits so much (about to eat 3 mangoes so ripe it’s like drinking mangoe juice) I am saddened and quite scared by this.

    • Hi Bella,
      It’s not good to hear you were stung. It is good to hear there are bees where you live though. This is very scary and very sad because th finger is pointing back at us. Once again we have taken on Mother Nature and screwed up big time.

  7. This is such an alarming situation. When I first began to notice less bees in my yard, I admit I was happy. Later, when I realized it was a global situation with such dire implications, I felt so bad. Bees are so vital to our world. I hope we get this figured out soon.

    • Hi Janene,
      There’s a new native bee study that has some interesting results. Picky Pollinators: Native U.S. Bees Are Selective About Where They Live and Feed
      ScienceDaily (June 22, 2011) — Native bees — often small, stingless, solitary and unnoticed in the flashier world of stinging honeybees — are quite discriminating about where they live, according to U.S. Geological Survey research. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110621151452.htm

  8. Hi Timethief,
    I feel I found your blog here through synchronicity having seen your constant presence in the WP Forums and discovering this Bees post… “by chance”. I’m amazed with you, your content and all your input into Blogging. This is a very interesting post about Bees, even more that I had just read similar stuff elsewhere only a few days ago.

    I am new to blogging/WP so I’m trying to feel inspired by the great vibe people like you transmit to beginners like myself. I will come and read your older posts soon as for what I glanced I found many interests in common. Apologies if this comment sound too general but I didn’t know how to approach you and express my gratitude and admiration. Bless you ~~~ :)

    • I’m so sorry for the delay in replying to you. Thanks so much for your comment which I do value very much.
      Blessings to you too.

  9. Hi TiTi

    The decline in the bee population has been of particular concern to the UK government and the agricultural industry, as well as to the EU, for some considerable time. It’s thought that the UK has lost 35% of its bees to various factors such as pesticides, viral infections, a decline in their natural habitats and wild flowers etc. The European Parliament says that 76% of our food production and 84% of plant species depend on pollination by bees, so any decline will see a food shortage globally. I think we should all be worried about how we leave our footprints on the earth.

    I do hope your foot is mending well now TiTi and that you are feeling more optimistic. I’ve recently had a fibromyalgia flare up coupled with other health issues, but once again have bounced right back and feeling good again.

    This post about the bees is a good one and makes one think how everything is interconnected and dependent upon everything else.

    Warm wishes to you.
    Crystal

    • Hi Crsytal,
      Yes everything and everyone on this planet is interconnected and it’s high time we humans developed some humility and common sense. We are not above the environment – we are part of it. Our penchant for destroying other species is so worrying and the situation with the bees and other polinators and amphibians is a wake up call. Will we hear the call? I sure hope so.

      On a personal note my foot is healing slower than expected but it is healing and I am getting around on it. The fibromylagia flare has settled down. It has left me frail, exhausted and generally depleted. I’ve also have other personal issues to deal with and though I am dealing with them I have felt myself withdrawing and sliding towards depression. Right now I’m looking forward to happier and better times.

      Love,
      TiTi

  10. We have problems here with frogs numbers falling. Frogs, I read, are an indication of the health of the local ecology, so frog numbers dropping is not a good sign. It is interesting to see that bees are at risk. I agree it is heartbreaking to see how we are destroying our planet and other living species on which we depend.

    • Australia’s frog populations are declining, as are frog and other amphibian populations worldwide, for reasons that are as yet unknown. This is a disturbing trend, because the presence of frogs is a good indication of a healthy environment. The best known and most common method of frog reproduction is through eggs laid in jelly in water, although some frog species lay their eggs on land. Well when we pollute water and use chemicals that drain grom the land into water bodies we become responsible for the demise of the creatures that all have integral roles to play in the ecology. SIGH … when will we ever learn? And iIf we do ever learn not to mess with nature, then will it be too late?

  11. This is so very heartbraking! It makes me worry for the whole human race as well as our planet. I don’t know what difference I can make, but this is one of the reasons I plant a lot of flowers and don’t approve of pesticides.

    • I don’t use any pesticides or herbicides or anything along that line at all. I have been focusing on planting flowers and herbs that the pollinators prefer. I hope everyone gets on the bandwagon and does the same while applying pressure on our govt’s to start legislating against the use of insecticides and herbicides.

  12. We have some awareness of this in UK. A couple of years ago one of our newspapers carried an offer where you could get three shrubs for the price of the post, that were chosen because they were bee friendly. I have them growing nicely as we speak. Shout out for bees!!

  13. That’s astonishing. I’ve been strung 3 times in the past year, so the bees aren’t rapidly disappearing from my neighborhood. But I have a neighbor with bee hives and they’ve mentioned problems with people losing colonies on the Island.

    Very interesting and very sad. We just don’t realize how interconnected with are with all living beings. Thanks for this insightful look into the current world crisis of the honey bee.

    • At one time beekeepers in North America paid farmers to house their hives in their fields but now the reverse is true. The intensification of industrialized farming, lack of hedgerows along roadsides and wild flowers, and an increase in mono-species crops have had a horrible impact on pollinators.

  14. I read about this several years ago….it’s scary stuff! Thanks for the thoughtful blog post…

    • Please allow me to apologize for taking so long to reply. I have had some big issues in my personal life to deal with.

      The colony collaspe situation is very disturbing. Fears are growing that a food crisis will sweep the globe because billions of bees have vanished. In the UK the population has plunged by a FIFTH. A third of everything we eat – including most fruit, vegetables and meat depends on bees for pollination

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