Can the humble honey bee survive this crisis?
Honey Bee farmers, agriculturists and scientists around the world are worried. They are worried about falling honey bee numbers, about a destructive virus sweeping through productive colonies, about losing the biggest resource to every crop grower in the world. Without Bee’s, apart from losing that wonderful droning on a hot summers day, crops would fail to be pollinated, seeds failed to be produced and the worlds worst starvation ever could occur. But it doesn’t only affect the obvious cereal crops, what about you morning coffee or orange juice, tree’s pollinated by bee’s. What about your fresh milk? If a farmer has less, or inadequate dairy feed, milk production will fall dramatically, pushing up the price of milk and leading to less of it on our shelves.
The honey bee population is falling dramatically, far more than one may think. In 2008 the British Bee Keepers Association published data accounting for a 30% drop in population between 2007 and 2008. In the same period the European Food Safety Authority published results for Italy, a bee keeping nation on an industrial scale, which showed a startling 40 – 50% drop in population. There is however discussion over the accuracy of these figures. Before populations started to fall there was no established structure for the sharing of data between countries, so whilst this data is worrying, it is not the entire picture.
But the actual reason for this population plummet still remains vague. The Varroa mite is thought to be partially responsible, attaching itself to the honey bees and sucking their blood, in turn lowering their immune system. Additional environmental pressures such as the use of pesticides and nectar low habitats, and the passing of two wet British summers, are also thought to have led to Colony Collapse Disorder.
With the determining factor in population fall of honey bee still vague, concerned members of the European Parliament are currently calling for research funding to be pushed through as a priority. Thought’s that high nectar arable set aside locations can be created to aide recovery have also been mentioned but funding will take time, all the while as the bees population continues to slide.
Whilst not directly combating the problem of population fall, farmers and citizens can do their part by establishing new colonies honey bee or encouraging nectar rich plants to grow in their gardens. Most hives will provide enough honey for a family, whilst going someway towards stopping this essential insect family from becoming extinct. Time does not seem to be on their side, and if they disappear would be the ones to follow?
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