The bee population is on the decline thanks to human activity – so why should we care and what is being done about it?
What do you know about bees? That they are fuzzy, pesky, stingy little insects that cause havoc at family BBQs and make children cry? Fair enough. But did you know that there are 20,000 different species of bees? That each species of bee has its own flight path, weight and size that make it perfectly suited to pollenate a certain type or types of plant? That is pretty amazing.
However, bees are under enormous threat, with 1 in 4 species in danger. 347 species are actually on the brink of extinction. There are further species that are on the decline but not enough is known about them to really assess the damage that will be caused by their demise.
The cause is mainly by the overuse of agricultural pesticides and insecticides. Other causes include lack of habitat, nutrition, and even mobile phone radiation. So, we know why bees are in danger – but why should we care?
It is known that we depend on bees for our fruits and vegetables, but that is quite an abstract thought. Let’s think about it on a day to day level. You wake up in the morning. No coffee. Okay, toast, but no Nutella to spread on it. You go to buy a bunch of flowers for you mother, no flowers. No vegetables to accompany you Sunday roast. No cocoa for your hot chocolate before bed. Starting to look pretty scary, huh? The human race relies on bees to pollenate up to 80% of our food crops. Put simply, no bees equals no food.
So, what can be done about the bee crisis? Schools are already using beekeeping as a teaching tool, and communities are encouraging the plantation of bee friendly plants to try to combat the issue. IKEA have developed an impressive planting structure and it wont be long before other large companies follow suit.
Yet the problem requires an immediate solution. One way that scientists believe the issue may be tackled by the use of tiny pollination drones. Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, is the designer. The drones are coated in a patch of horse hair mimicking the furry exterior of real bees, and this is coated with an ionic liquid gel. The tiny bots are able to pick up and deposit pollen from one plant to another.
Although this looks set to be a solution, drones will never be able to replace the bee communities that have been lost due to human activity. As Quinn McFrederick, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside, states “I would not like to live in a world where bees are replaced by plastic machines. Let’s focus on protecting the biodiversity we still have left.” The declining bee population is as a result of human activity, so it is only right that human activity should be focused on fixing that problem too.