There seems to be lots of focus on wild bee population in the United States. For the last few years, statistics and reports showing the decline of the number of bees in the US have many people worried. Do you recall the dramatic cover story in a 2013 edition of the Time Magazine “A World without Bees,” that contained the subtitle “The price we will pay if we don’t figure out what’s killing the honeybee?” This is how serious the issue was back then.
A few years later, 2015 to be more specific, another welcome story made headlines in the Washington Post “Call off the bee-apocalypse: U.S. honeybee colonies hit a 20-year high.” This was certainly good news for nature lovers as well as the environment as it meant the bees were once again thriving. This was after the Statistics from Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy at the University of California-Davis confirmed a rise in numbers of honey bees. However, this only applied to honeybees and not wild bees.
Back to 2016 – Has the situation improved or it has gotten worse? Acccording to the entomological community in the US, the wild bee is still under threat. And if anything isn’t done about it, then the future of this vital insect is quite bleak. The National Academy of Sciences states that wild bees are disappearing faster than was previously thought. This was especially observed in regions such as The Midwest Corn Belt, California’s Central Valley, the Mississippi River Valley and many other regions.
A closer look at these regions indicates that they are some of the key farming areas where the bees are needed most. The tiny social insect is responsible for pollination and areas with large wild bee population experience higher harvests. High yield also meant lower cost of production and increased revenue.
Ins Koh, a professor of environmental planning at the University of Vermont, together with his fellow researchers recently undertook a study on the population of the wild bee. This was influenced by the growing concerns of the species disappearing in many regions in the US.
Findings from the study revealed that the population of wild bees had dropped by 23 percent between the 2008 and 2013. The decline was even more afterwards with the figure estimated to be about 39% and the most affected regions were the croplands or farming zones. Due to this farmers complained of reduced harvests, rising costs of agriculture, and higher costs of living.
There are several factors that are causing the wild bee population to drop. These include human encroachment on forests and jungles, disease, viruses, pests, and use of harmful pesticides. The wild bee is more resistant to the varroa mite which causes great harm to the honeybee.
Nonetheless, agricultural pesticides classified as neonicotinoids are the main killers of the wild bees. This chemical is popularly used in agriculture and was killing the bees in masses. Considering that one out of three food spoons came about because of pollination by wild bees, it means that killing them also means depriving the planet of food.
Unless something drastic is done about the diminishing wild bee population, the future of food security in the United States is in doubt and under threat.