The last few years have seen a significant decline in the bee population – 85% decimation in some regions. This is extremely worrying from many perspectives, but especially as we need bees to pollinate our crops. The global value of insect pollinators is estimated at around £130 billion (2005). 90% of the world’s food focuses on a hundred crop species and over 70 of these rely on bees to pollinate them.
Scientists have shown that the grave reduction in bee numbers is due to air pollution, intensive farming, over-cropping, loss of flowering plants, decline in beekeepers, a lethal pinhead-sized parasite that has been wiping out colonies in the last 30 years (Varroa destructor) and most importantly the increased use of pesticides and herbicides.
Artificial fertilisers are used increasingly to stimulate growth so that the crops grow more vigorously. The consequence of this is the plants are then more attractive to pests so that more insecticides are used to limit the damage. Dave Goulson from University of Stirling found that the insecticide neonicotinoid has negative affects on the bee colonies. Sold since 1994 the insecticide forms a coat on the seeds which is then absorbed into the growing plant where some is ingested by the bees. The result is the bee’s finely tuned navigation systems are scrambled so they cannot find their way home.
Bee Population decline:
Middle East 85%
South America, Africa and Australia report no significant reductions.