Where Have The Bees Gone?
Bees are critical to the stability and persistence of many ecosystems. For this reason, they deserve to be understood and protected. Since the time of our great-grandparents, bees, especially the honey bees, have been considered some of the most important insects in the human life. They have been associated with pollination services that are responsible for global biodiversity and the maintenance of human food supplies. Over the past decade, bees have continually received continued attention from professional and scientific communities following considerable population declines. Scientific research has primarily focused on honey bee species as this is the most commonly used pollinator in the United States’ agriculture. Nevertheless, significant drops have also been recorded among the native bee species. The Bee Research Laboratory affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture has revealed that managed honey bee colonies have plummeted by up to 25 percent since the 1980s. The extents of declines in the population of native bee species varies and have been disputed. The specific consequences of the decline in bee populations on global diversity and food supply remain inexplicit, but are inevitably adverse. Worry and anxiety about the future of food and economic and biological losses have sparked a surge of scientific and scholarly literature examining the current situation of bee population declines and how it affects everyone worldwide, and what the solution might be. The primary aim of this paper is to present a literature review on the subject with the goal of examining the current situation, recent findings, and the potential solution to shed light on the current global Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Current Situation of Bees Population Declines in the United States
Over the last few decades, news about honeybees have always made news headlines In the United States. In what has been referred to as “bee apocalypse”, and associated with a global phenomenon called the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), American honey bees have been dying and disappearing extraordinarily. The consequences are anticipated to be about $15 billion direct crop and honey production losses and about $75 billion in indirect losses. The trouble began during the winter and spring of 2006 and 2007 when beekeepers started experiencing massive die-offs in their managed bee colonies. Earlier, farmers were experiences between 5 and 10 percent of losses annually due to natural causes such as pests and diseases. However, they started experiencing between 30 and 90 percent annually, which meant significant losses. Strangely enough, there was no concrete evidence pointing to disease or predation. Some beekeepers thought that chemical and pesticide contamination were to blame, but no scientific evidence was there to verify these claims. Other studies suggested that landscape composition and pattern were critical to the bee population dynamics. However, these claims were not substantiated. Beekeepers and scientists have remained worried because according to math, losing about 30 percent of the colony every year would result in extinction or near extinction. The Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which was documented in 2006, remains a key concern demanding more understanding and a strong indication of a need for more detailed research studies. This work will add to the subject of significant declines in American native bee population numbers.
Bees have been recognized as significant contributors to the majority if pollination serves. The reason for this is that about one-third of Northern America diets come from foods, that is, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, which rely on insect pollination. Managed bee colonies are important crop pollinators in the United States where they are indispensable farmhands pollinating about 110-150 types of vegetables and fruits. In the 2000s, the value of American crops pollinated by bees were estimated to account for about US$14.6 billion. However, declining population numbers have reduced their reliability as pollinators. The effects have been more vivid in crop production where increased bees’ diversity was initially linked to increased vegetable and fruit yields. Pollination was also considered to be an imperative genetic provider that contributed to improved cultivated strains. Moreover, bees through the pollination services contribute to improved crop production and improved biodiversity in ecosystems, as well as the production of honey as food.
According to Marsha, North American has been a home to more than 4,000 varieties of native bee species in addition to other imported from Europe. In the last couple of years, however, the population of bees has considerably declined. In the spring of 2007, the subject of Colony Decline Disorder (CCD) hit news headlines when thousands of commercial beekeepers started reporting that honeybees were flying away from their hives and never returning. Some bees were traumatized and were left dead in or around their hives. The Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was documented as a mysterious condition with a plethora of possible causes. Among the possible pinpointed causes were pests, diseases, pesticide poisoning, and immune-suppressing stress. Other suspected factors were urbanization, habitat fragmentation, climate change, migratory stress, and poor management. Nevertheless, a lack of systematic sampling and conflicting research findings led little information about the declining bee numbers. Till today, little is known about the current state of native bee populations in Northern America with no substantial evidence to support suggested claims on the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
In 2008, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) convened a multi-agency steering committee to assess the problem and find solutions. Among the factors they suggested as fundamental causes of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) included excessive use of pesticides and poor management of bee populations including inadequate diets and long distance transportation . In another study conducted by researchers from the University of Columbia, the possibility that virus, particularly Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus was a cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was excluded. The researchers conducted a systematic study on hives that had been abandoned by bees. About 96 percent of all habitats studied did not indicate that the virus of central to the phenomenon of population decline.
According to Cane, habitat fragmentation, loss, and degradation is perhaps the most obvious combination of factors that has resulted in significant declines in bee populations. Degradation and fragmentation of habitats lead to adverse effects in the natural habitats for bee species. The author pinpoints hedgerows, embankments, field margins, and other waste places as the best nesting habitats for native bee species. Too often, people do not appreciate these habitats and end up removing them. These results so far have been a dramatic decline in United States’ native bee fauna is the last few decades. Besides, Cane has noted that habitat fragmentation and degradation leads to genetic erosion, which reduces gene flow between demes. It also increases the likelihood that native bee species will become extinct.
Other scholars have blamed agricultural practices for the significant declines in native bee population numbers. According to Henry, improper use of herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides, for instance, coating seeds with insecticides such as Imidacloprid, which is absorbed by the root and spreads throughout the plant including flower parts, poses a potential threat to bees, which are key pollinator agents. Oldroyd notes that bees lose a sense of direction upon ingesting such pesticides. Some other studies have pinpointed that increased use of pesticides such as Neonicotinoid is central to the massive declines in bee populations. Henry note that farmers have since the 1990s used these pesticides as a way of keeping pests off their crops. These pesticides remain embedded within seeds before they sprout. As plants grow, they contain high levels of these chemicals in their leaves, fruits, and flowers. These subject bees to toxic effects that are thought to be in one way or another reason for the significant decline in bee populations. Henry backs these claims by arguing that an exposure of bees to pesticides reduces their ability to avert a gut parasite referred to as Nosema ceranae. It affects bees causing a digestive disease that leads to massive deaths. Similarly, insecticides are applied not only to agricultural fields but also recreational areas, backyards, and forests where the toxicity affects beneficial insects such as bees.
Further, agronomic practices linked to the replacement of natural plant communities with monoculture has been identified as a factor for reduced bee populations. Undoubtedly, most monocultures are not capable of sustaining pollinator populations such as bees. According to Johnson, Evans, Robinson, & Berenbaum, bees need to be protected from excessive exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals that are likely to impair their reproduction or affect the sources for pollination.
The drastic declines in native bee population numbers have caused various adverse outcomes. These include less flower visitation, gradual drops in seed and fruit production. There have also been increased cases of inbreeding in self-compatible flower plants. Besides, the beekeeping sector has been considerably affected in several regions in the United States. Among the recommendations suggested for countering these impacts include alternative agricultural practices and conservation initiatives. Johnson, Evans, Robinson, & Berenbaum indicate that farmers can develop and use alternative agricultural technics that provide non-toxic methods of weed and insect control that favor insect pollinators such as bees. Besides, farmers can set aside sections of land to promote wild pollinators. They can leave sections of farmland unploughed so as to produce vegetation that can support considerable bees’ diversity. Large-scale protection and management of habitat networks should be implemented so as to reduce habitat-related declines and to maximize the ability of species to track the distribution of favorable climatic conditions. In the aspect of conservation initiatives, conservation-minded researchers should advocate for planting nectar producing plants that support native bee populations.
The paper provided a literature review about the prevalence of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in the United States, its effects, and what its probable solutions might be. The paper notes that the phenomena in which bees massively disappeared from their hives was first documented in 2006. Beekeepers started recording between 30 and 90 percent of the colonies annual. Today, many bee species in the United States have disappeared with no conclusive explanation. Many scientists and scholars have devoted massive attention to the subject. Among the notable causes of the phenomenon include agricultural activities associated with the use of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. Other important factors have been identified as habitat fragmentation and degradation, which affects the natural habitats of bees. Various pieces of literature suggest that the phenomenon can be countered through alternative farming approaches and conservative initiatives. These would help to reduce the impacts of the phenomenon on the beep keeping industry as well as crop and fruit production.