Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Buzz on Bees

If the bee population became extinct, there would be no more fresh yogurt with berries for breakfast, and the cost of a steak dinner would cause many to order fish. During the short and productive lifespan of a bee, the impact of a colony affects our daily choices of what and how we eat. In the average grocery store, 80% of the products sold are from bee pollinated crops (Tucker, 2014).
Instead of an unwanted nuisance, the sight of a bumblebee should bring thoughts of a bountiful harvest. The mighty bumble bee has been struggling to survive globally and recently has suffered a 20% reduction in population (Stewart, 2007). Because of the short lifespan of bees, it will take a colony three years to rebuild after exposure to pesticides, climate change, or being overtaken by varrora mites, a predatory parasite (Aubrey, 2015). Unfortunately, humans seem to be the biggest threat to colonies through destroying natural occurring habitats and increasing use of pesticides. In the 1990’s the use of neonicotinoids were introduced and now are one of the most commonly used pesticides. Limited exposure to these pesticides does not negatively affect bee health but with an estimated 80-95% corn, half of all soybean crops using neonicotinoids, the exposure magnifies to a point in which bees reproductive rates decline (Aubrey, 2015).
Picnic goers should not rejoice in the idea bee extinction but be concerned about the impact on the availability and affordability of food. In addition to honey, bees are responsible for pollenating many crops. One-third of the American diet in comprised of crops pollinated by bees, such as nuts, squash, and berries (Stewart, 2007). The U.S. Department of Agricultures estimates $30 billion worth of crops rely on bees and other pollinators (Rescuing Honey Bee Hives | Penn State University, 2015). Almonds exclusively rely on pollination by honeybees. A 1999 study from Cornell calculated the contribution of a healthy bee population to pollinate crops is comparable to $14.6 billion (Pollination facts - American Beekeeping federation, 2015).
If the bee population continues to decline, not only the availability of crops will be diminished but also the affordability of meat. The primary crop fed to live stock is alfalfa, which is a pollinated crop (Stewart, 2007). Mono-cropping is also attributed to the population demise. By framers exclusively growing non-nectar producing crops like oats, barley and wheat, no available food source is available (Top stories, no date).  Acknowledging the threat to the food supply and economy, earlier in 2015 the U.S. government strategized to developed 7 million acres of “pollinator-friendly habitat” (Aubrey, 2015).






References

Aubrey, A. (2015) As Beekeepers lose more Hives, time for new rules on pesticides?. Available at: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/24/457130929/as-beekeepers-lose-more-hives-time-for-new-rules-on-pesticides (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Pollination facts - American Beekeeping federation (2015) Available at: http://www.abfnet.org/?page=14 (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Rescuing Honey Bee Hives | Penn state university (2015) Available at: http://www.psu.edu/feature/2013/06/05/rescuing-honey-bee-hives (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Stewart, K. L. (2007) Eating between the lines: The supermarket shopper’s guide to the truth behind food labels. 1st edn. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Top stories (no date) Available at: https://www.quora.com/How-are-bees-important-in-the-food-chain-What-role-do-they-play-in-the-nature-of-life (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Tucker, J. (2014) How bees benefit other living things. Available at: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/how-bees-benefit-other-living-things/ (Accessed: 17 December 2015).