As humans we have developed a society based around many different aspects of both nature and technology. We take for granted now that the satellites orbiting the globe will send us data on weather and location, and we also assume that fish will be in the ocean, birds will remain in the sky and bees will continue to help the pollination of plants. The latter however isn’t a natural mechanism that is as stable as we once expected. Beekeepers all over the world have noticed a significant dwindling of bees in the past decade, in fact the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder has hit the world hard and caused billions of dollars worth of damage to the economy. But what is more alarming is that we can’t conclusively say what the cause is.
CCD as it is widely known is a condition where bee colonies significantly shrink in number due to worker bees simply not returning to the hive. Returning to the man-made enclosures that house bee communities and create honey, beekeepers would expect a thriving community to be constantly buzzing inside the wooden ‘houses’ they have created. However, time after time bees are missing, not found dead at the bottom or in the surrounding area, but absent. This is a disaster on a huge scale.
Missing bees may seem to be a small problem, maybe we expect a little less honey on supermarket shelves you may think, but bees are essential for pollination. This means that plants as well as crops, trees and basically all flora that we grow for its benefits (like fruit or flowers) are under threat because bees do all the leg work. Because of CCD may farmers have had to rent bees from companies at increased prices just to pollinate their crops for the season. This has put a demand on both the growers, the beekeepers and the consumer as the price of so many crops has skyrocketed as a result. If we run out of bees, our lives will become very different.
Obviously as soon as the problem was identified, the scientific community aimed to find the cause for this disorder. Theories arose that included malnutrition and a handful of diseases that may affect the efficiency of the workers, but even though some of these got traction the global scale of this disaster didn’t align with such a small-scale issue. A rise in microscopic mites is also another popular conclusion; these pests can weaken the honey bee and therefore may make it impossible for it to return to the hive. Another more likely scenario is that our increase in usage of pesticides and genetically modified crops is the culprit. On a very small scale the components of GM crops have been shown to affect bees and cause among other things – disorientation. Though no studies have officially confirmed this, its likely that the companies with money and a global problem on their hands are doing their best to keep their connection under wraps. However more than anything the most likely reason behind the disappearance of the bees is a combination of these aspects mixed with our total impact on the environment, which for all life on earth is becoming deadlier every day.