Recent studies conducted due to the large number of bees that have been not found in thier hives sinc ethe beginning of 2004has caught a l0t of attention. Thier disappearnce has been a mystery and both the sicentifc communityy and nvironmentalists are trying to find answers to their vanishing. Hundreds of crops require pollination for maturing into yield which has been put at risk. The studies conducted unravel some serious factors such as farming practices, exposure of bees to viruses and other factors in combination that are causing the rampant killings of the bees. Biologists are trying to control the situation by advising special hygiene care of the hives and creation of antiviral drugs to reduce the number of vanishing of bees. Use of pesticides and intensified land use for agriculture are primarily responsible for the vanishing of bees as the chemicals used in agriculture have proven to biologically affect the strength of the bees. In North America, the disappearance of these bees has been so intense that it is known as ‘Colony collapse disorder’. So as to counteract this problem of vanishing of bees, "Save the bee" policy has been put forth, which is being implemented to reduce the number of vanishing of bees.
How can vanishing bees cause extinction of plant species?
With increase in the occurrence of vanishing of bees the various fruits, vegetables and flowers that are solely dependent on the bees for pollination are at the risk of getting extinct. The recent scale of losses indicate that yield of major crops is under serious threat. For example, an entire almond crop is dependent upon particular group of bees for pollination at the start of the spring. But due to less bee population, the estimated yield of almond has gone down considerably. Although there are many crops such as maize, wheat, rice that are pollinated by wind, the interesting food stuffs that make our meal more enjoyable such as nuts and fruits require bees for pollination-transferring male pollens to female so that fruit is produced with seeds. Other crops such as roots, shoots, leaves and vegetables that are regular part of our meals are pollinated by the bees and insects. There are many wild species that require bee/insect pollination for reproducing out of which many are rare and threatened. Due to decline of the bee population, the overall haul of the crops has come down and if steps are not taken quickly to solve this mystery of vanishing of bees, some of the crops we enjoy, would soon become relegated to history.
Which are the bees that are most threatened?
Around 25000 species of bees exist all over the world out of which very few are managed and maintained for commercial pollination. Currently the most threatened bee that plays key role in the pollination process is the western Apis mellifera honey bee, which is native to Africa and Eurasia.
What are the reasons for the vanishing of bees?
Several reasons have been cited by different environmentalists and biologists for the vanishing of bees. But it is more likely that combination of all these reasons have enhanced the speed of vanishing of bees. Some of them are:
Modern commercial beekeeping is cited as one of the reasons for vanishing of bees. Same types of bees cannot adapt to various habitats at one time and when they are shifted for pollination from one place to another such as for pollination in Florida (oranges), to Maine (blueberries) and Pennsylvania (apples) it becomes difficult for the bees to survive.
A certain parasitic mite Varroa destructor known for causing huge economic losses world over since past three decades is known to suck the blood of the adult bees for reproduction and during sucking transmits viruses into their body thereby destroying colonies of bees at one stroke. Although many beekeepers in the developing world have stopped the onslaught of these mites by using chemical stripes, over the years these mites have become resistant to various chemicals used against them and hence their population is growing.
Intensification of agriculture and changes in the use of land is another reason for the vanishing of bees. The bees belonging to different species have varied nesting habits. Some live in the hollow of the tree trunk while some nest in grounds. Due to intensified land uses and agriculture proper nesting places have become sparser. This in turn has made the bees vulnerable and the predators can pounce on them very easily.
Bees need pollens for proteins and nectar for energy that they suck from the flowers. With the increased use of herbicides availability of flowering weeds in the grasslands as well as amongst the crops have reduced. Due to this the availability of wild flowering shrubs, herbs and trees has decreased. The widely grown crops such as sunflowers or beans provide some alternative but these are mostly sprinkled with insecticides which have lead to increase in the vanishing of bees.
The bees require multiple varieties of crops and flowering plants so that they get regular food supply and complete their life cycle. Monocultures of crops fail to fulfill these requirements of the bees.
Some other factors include mobile phones and genetically modified crops.
How can the government contribute in controlling declining bees? population?
Some of the steps that can be taken by the governments of various countries to check the extent of vanishing of bees:
Setting aside specific areas for wildlife so that bees can get enough variety of food supply throughout the year
Planting mixture of nectar rich pollens around the field edges and planting trees at the edges of fields
Promoting organic farming and reintroducing legumes like cloves to add variety of crops to grasslands.
Bees help immensely in maintaining ecosystem and promoting the overall growth of vegetation. Hence governments should arrange for better provisions for the bee-keepers so that they are maintained in hygienic environment.
Since this is a global problem countries from all over the world should work in co-ordination with each other to promote organic farming so that the deaths of the bees is minimized and they get regular supply of food round the year.