We Will Not Survive Without Bees

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North American

bees

are disappearing at a rapid rate, signaling a dire threat to the production of countless food sources. The Guardian reports that four common species of U.S. bumble bees have declined 96 percent in recent decades, and scientists allege that disease and inbreeding are responsible.

Honey

bees

have long been known to be in decline, suffering from the enigmatic colony collapse disorder, and the latest research on U.S. bumble bees only exacerbates concerns over future food production, as bees are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the world’s commercial plants, from fruits and vegetables to coffee and cotton.

While a correlation between the Nosema bombi fungus infection and the declining bumble bee populations was discovered, the culprit isn’t clearly defined.

One of the study’s researchers told LiveScience that the data doesn’t necessarily verify that the disease is driving the decline, and other factors — like reduced adaptability to environmental changes as a result of inbreeding — are likely at play.

The

bees

join other pollinating insects that have been suffering increasing declines since the end of the 20th century, including moths and hoverflies, and the U.S. findings mirror similar studies examining bee declines around the world, with everything from increasing city development to pesticide use suggested as contributing causes.

While the alarming drop in U.S. bumble bee populations is the latest news suggesting disastrous consequences from unpredictable climate change and environmental degradation, it is only a small portion of the bigger picture. Countless species are dying out at increasing rates, and the unforeseen effects from such losses could likely be devastating to the environment.

New research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that another vitally important pollinator, the bumblebee, is in serious decline. According to the figures, there has been a shocking 96 percent decline in four major species of the bumblebee, and an up to 87 percent decrease in their overall geographic coverage.

“We provide incontrovertible evidence that multiple Bombus species have experienced sharp population declines at the national level,” explained researchers in their report. And in a phone interview with Reuters, study author Sydney Cameron from the University of Illinois, Urbana, explained that these bumblebee species are “one of the most important pollinators of native plants.”

Over the course of three years, the research team evaluated 382 different sites in 40 states, and mulled data from over 73,000 museum records. They determined that bumblebees are needed to pollinate various fruits and vegetables, and that they accomplish this task in a very unique way.

“The 50 species (of bumblebees) in the United States are traditionally associated with prairies and with high alpine vegetations,” said Cameron. “Just as important — they land on a flower and they have this behavior called buzz pollination that enables them to cause pollen to fly off the flower.”

In other words, without bumblebees and the special way in which they pollinate, entire segments of agriculture are threatened with extinction. Like honeybees and bats, bumblebees are vital in order to grow food. Without them, humanity will starve to death.

Misleadingly, many experts largely blame various pathogens, fungi and viruses for the die-offs of these pollinators, while giving only a brief mention — if any at all — to the toxic pesticides and herbicides that are increasingly being linked to things like colony collapse disorder (CCD), the name given to the mass bee die-off phenomenon. A recently leaked report, for instance, has revealed that a popular Bayer herbicide is responsible for killing off bees.

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