Imagine a world where you drive through the rolling hills of countryside looking for the vibrant colours of the summer-blooming wild flowers, only to find that not a single glimpse of colour can be found for miles around – only brown and green.
As you ponder the reason for this you stop at a café to get a cup of comforting coffee, only to be told that you will have to travel 300 miles for the closest cup of coffee availble, so instead you settle for a healthy apple, only to be flabbergasted that a single piece of fruit will cost you £10.
This is what our world would look like if we had no more bees.
People began keeping bees as early as 20,000 BCE, meaning that beekeeping was a successful practice before the dawn of agriculture, which occurred 12,000 years ago and made farming possible.
In the past few years, bee populations have declined so drastically that it has been named the ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ and for the first time, the USDA reported more losses of bees in summer than winter – the time of the year when they should be their most active due to an array of bright flowers in full bloom.
It is estimated that one third of the food that we eat each day relies on pollination mainly from bees.
Several photographic representations have been carried out to demonstrate what our supermarkets would look like if there were no more bees to pollinate our food sources, as you can see below.
A lack of bees not only results in a lack of those crops, but if we look further, it would also mean a lack of animals that rely on those crops for their survival, furthermore resulting in a lack of those animals in our own diets.
The main reasons for such a vast decline in bees is due to heavy usage of strong pesticides, climate change and the stress of the same bees being trucked from field-to-field to pollinate many different crops.
The coffee flower in particular is only open for pollination for three or four days. Therefore if no insect is present in that short space of time, the plant will not be pollinated. This will result in a basic commodity such as coffee being rare to find, and a real luxury to indulge in, if you can afford the shocking prices due to the new rarity.
Due to society’s sense of extreme urgency in everything that we do, together with modern technology, traditional agricultural practices were abandoned in favour of techniques which increased productivity to satisfy our needs, which in turn has resulted in reducing the abundance of wild flowers. It has been estimated that we have lost 97% of flower-rich grassland since the 1930s.This is a result in the dramatic decline of bee populations, as without bees pollinating the wild flowers, they do not produce seeds and so do not reproduce, causing them to eventually die out entirely.
This has a knock-on effect for the bee population, as their existence relies soley upon flowers for food, with these shocking statistics you can understand the great decline.
Through the pollination of many commercial crops including tomatoes, apples and strawberries, insects are estimated to contribute over £400 million per year to the UK economy alone, €14.2 billion to the EU econonomy, and €265 billion annually worldwide.
So what can you do?
– plant bee-friendly plants in your own garden and maintain them to ensure their survival
– put your plants in full sun and sheltered from the wind as this will improve chances of successful pollination by bees
– try not to use pesticides in your garden, but if you really have to then make sure that they are bee-friendly
Two species of bees have already become extinct in the UK, lets not make that three anytime soon.