What are the reasons for bee decline? The reasons are various, but there are things you and I can do to help reverse the decline in bee populations.
I’m sure that like me, you want bee populations
to grow and thrive.
Together, we can make a difference -
so let's just do it!
The main reasons our bees are and have been under pressure are as follows:
1. Habitat Loss
With building development, urbanization and intensive farming practices, we have lost many wildflower meadows and hedgerows.
Hedgerows provide foraging opportunities for bees, but they also provide potential nest sites (for example, crevices and abandoned mouse holes at the base of the hedgerow). According to the United Nations, 20,000 flowering plant species upon which many bee species depend for food are at risk in the future, unless more effort it made to conserve and preserve them.
An Anglo-Dutch study has found that since the 1980s, we have witnessed a 70% drop in key wildflower species, including plants from the pea, mint, and perennial herb families.
Habitat is important not only for food, but to ensure genetic diversity. For example, if habitats become too isolated, species are forced to in-breed.
In bumblebees this causes all kinds of problems, such as the production of males instead of female workers. This kind of problem accelerates decline.
When nesting sites are reduced, this obviously increases competition between bees for appropriate and safe places in which they can raise their colonies. Bumblebee queens, for example, have been shown to fight even to the death over nest sites!
Delay in finding appropriate spaces to rear a colony, means a later start in the season, which may in itself have its knock on effects.
There are some initiatives in various countries and communities to create habitat for bees, and there are things you can do.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that pollution from pesticides is harmful to bees.
Is it realistic to believe the notion that insectides kill ‘nasty insects’ whilst conveniently leaving alone the ‘nice’ bees, butterflies, hoverflies, lacewings and ladybugs?
A quick look at the patents of pesticides can be a real eye-opener – here is an example.
Neonicotinoid insecticides have
received considerable criticism. They are
used over vast areas of land, are mobile in water and soil, can contaminate
field margin plants, remain in the soil for years, and even tiny amounts below
the recommended dose have a harmful effect on bees. See this interesting reference - a paper by Prof Dave Goulson (clicking the link opens a new window):
3. Diseases and Mites of Bees
Bee decline does not only apply to honey bees, but wild bees and other insect pollinators (and many invertebrate species generally).
The finger is often pointed to Varroa as the single cause, but Varroa mite only affects honey bees, not other bee species.
Cutting out pesticide use could play an important role in stemming disease and pathogens in bees, but there are other issues, such as spread of disease from commercially reared species to wild bees. See this report (opens a new window).
4. Climate Change
The effects of climate change on bees and bee decline are complex, but in altering the weather patterns and cycles, this has had some impact, for example:
Although bee decline is a worrying issue, nevertheless, there is much we can do - many simple actions we ourselves can take.
As some-one who has campaigned and experimented with different ways to help bees, I have been encouraged to see more species of bees in my garden this year than in previous years, including 2 uncommon species of bumblebee.
There is far greater buzz about bees than ever before, and increasing awareness of our need to change and try to garden in ways that assist and enhance biodiversity. Gardeners are deliberately choosing plants to help bees and other pollinators, and so together, we are creating feeding stations and bee-sanctuaries across the countries in which we live!
That's good news for bees, biodiversity and people alike!
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