As a biology major in college and an enthusiastic young beekeeper during my 4-H days in high school, I have been following for some years another growing global pandemic. Bee colonies are dying, unexplainedly, at an alarming rate around the world.
You may think that this is much ado about nothing in relation to the human global pandemic we are currently facing, but here are some little known facts that, to me at least, are cause for serious concern for the welfare of our global food supply chain.
- More than 75% of the leading types of global food crops rely to some extent on animal pollination, mostly bees
- Globally there are more honey bees than other types of bee and pollinating insects, so honeybees are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops.
- Over the past 10 years, honeybee colonies have been dying out, often as much as 50-75% each year in North American
- Beekeepers in most European countries have observed a similar phenomenon since 1998, especially in Southern and Western Europe, and Ireland
- According to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the United Nations, the total value of global crops pollinated by honey bees was estimated at nearly USD$200 billion in 2005.
- Farmers have to buy or rent extra colonies each year to pollinate their crops, raising the cost of fruit and produce by 20%.
- Currently there is a shortage of hives globally.
A Mysterious Cause
Now known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), this sudden die off is an abnormal phenomenon that occurs when the majority of bees in a colony suddenly disappear, leaving behind plenty of food. Several possible causes for CCD have been proposed, but no single proposal has gained widespread acceptance among the scientific community.
Suggested causes include;
- infections with various pathogens, especially those transmitted by Varroa and Acarapis mites
- genetic factors such as inbreeding
- loss of habitat
- changing beekeeping practices
Many hives are found with mite infections which reduce the stamina of infected bees.
However, the most likely culprit are pesticides, especially those of the neonicotinoid family, which has been used widely around the world as a substitute to DDT.
For those interested, here is short video on this other global pandemic:
We are fighting many changes to the welfare of humankind at the moment, all brought about by our unwitting and often wanton disreguard for the interdependent and interconnected world which we all share. It’s all of our responsibility to turn these crises into learnings. Doing well AND doing good should be our new mantra for the post COVID-19 world.