Update: 5th August 2020
What are the reasons and causes for bee decline? The general reasons are:
Potential future threats include pollution and possible changes in weather patterns.
You can read some of the bee decline statistics here.
However, there are things
you and I can do to help reverse the decline in bee populations. With greater awareness and direct action by concerned citizens, we really can create positive change for the benefit of bees and pollinators, of that I am certain.
Together we can make a difference, so let's just do it!
With building development,
urbanization and intensive farming practices, we have lost many wildflower
meadows and hedgerows. The loss of hedgerows is significant, because they provide foraging opportunities for bees, as well as potential nest sites (for example, crevices and abandoned mouse holes at the base of the hedgerow).
Reduction of flower habitat - especially wild flower meadows, fields and verges, is of great concern. 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.
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.
Habitat is important not only for food, but to ensure genetic diversity.
If habitat is destroyed, there can be a tendency for patches of appropriate habitat to become fragmented and isolated.
Instead of mating occurring between bees of different colonies spread
through a range of habitat locations, in-breeding can occur in isolated
areas. In bumble bees this causes all kinds of problems, such as the production of males instead of female workers. This kind of problem accelerates decline.
When suitable habitat is scarce, availability of appropriate nesting sites is reduced. This obviously increases competition between bees for appropriate and safe
places in which they can raise their colonies.
Bumble bee queens, for example, have been shown to fight even to the death
over nest sites!
Delay in finding
appropriate spaces to rear a colony, also means a later start in the season, which
may in itself have its knock on effects on colony success, for example fewer suitable flowers upon which to forage, smaller colonies, fewer queens and less time for queens to build up reserves and find a suitable place to overwinter.
There are some initiatives in various countries and communities to create habitat for bees, and there are things you can do.
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. See this interesting reference - a paper by Prof Dave Goulson (clicking the link opens a new window):
There have been attempts to side-step the relevance of pesticides as a causal factor in bee decline. If industry is not challenged by the regulatory system, they (and farming) will not be motivated to find better solutions. Farmers, in my view, are falsely reassured and misled by the regulatory system.
Please see this page about myths and flawed arguments used to defend neonicotinoids.
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).
Scientists have found that even moderate levels of air pollution interfere with the abilities of bees to pick up floral scents at distance. You can read more about this subject here.
My personal view is that deforestation is the biggest problem and cause of climate and unpredictable weather patterns. 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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