by Han-Ru Xie
Bees are important to the environment, as their pollination allows plants to reproduce, so bees are indispensable for maintaining ecological balance. Since the end of the 20th century, both honeybees kept by humans and wild bee species have decreased at an alarming rate.
The puzzle of honey bee decline
In 1994, a substantial decline of honeybees due to unknown reasons was observed in France. Local beekeepers found that worker bees that are responsible for gathering pollen suddenly disappeared, leaving behind the colony’s queen bee, larvae, and a handful of immature nurse bees in the hive that can barely survive on their own. Because of this, the colony and its organization collapsed, leading to the death of a large number of honeybees in Europe.
Scientists call this Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Cases of CDC have been reported around the world, and there have been a few cases in Taiwan since April 2007.
As for the cause of sudden loss of bees, there are different opinions, but in general, scientists believe that CDC is caused by pesticides used in agriculture and climate change.
Decline of bees- bigger than just not having honey
When it comes to the decline of bees, many people do not understand the seriousness and the consequences, thinking it is merely a matter of having less honey. The fact is that bees collect pollen for many other reasons other than producing honey that humans can take advantage of. Bees play an important role in nature for plants. Therefore, the number of bees is closely related to ecological balance and even economic development for humans.
According to statistics, more than 30% of human food comes from flowering plants, where 80 to 90% of their reproduction and growth rely on pollination by bees. If a large number of bee colonies disappear, there will be no pollination that is crucial to the growing of crops and fodder needed to raise livestock. If this continues, animals will be extinct due to insufficient food, coupled with the decrease in crop production, there will be a large-scale food shortage in the end.
For Taiwan, the production of fruits and vegetables will take the biggest hit in the face of this challenge. In recent years, the decrease in the number of bees has led to a drastic pollinator decline, where artificial pollination has become an alternative to grow fruit and vegetables.
According to research from the United States, if the number of bees continues to decrease, all the world’s bees could go extinct by 2035, which is quite worrying.
With the decline of bees as a warning, it is vital that humans keep in mind that the development in technology should be not pursuit at the expense of maintaining ecological balance, which is the only answer to sustainable development.