Bees provide an essential function, and numerous studies have proven that humans would lose access to a wide variety of foods if this pollinating species became extinct. In fact, approximately 30 percent of the global crop supply requires bees to thrive, and this puts us in a very vulnerable position. After all, environmental issues such as the drought in California have already strained the world’s ability to keep people fed. Meanwhile, the bee population continues to decline at an alarming rate. To make matters even worse, researchers have recently discovered that certain pesticides are most likely the bee version of nicotine.
Bees and Pesticides: A Deadly Mixture?
Neonicotinoid pesticides are commonly used to treat a variety of crops. Bees do not have the ability to taste this pesticide, and this prevents them from having a natural defense against tainted nectar. Unfortunately, once the neonicotinoid pesticide enters their body, bees typically exhibit problems foraging, and their overall physical fitness is also demonstrably reduced. This is attributed to the toxins that are present within these pesticides, and bees that are exposed to high quantity of neonicotinoid particles could possibly die from contamination.
The Addiction Factor
Even without a bad taste being associated with neonicotinoid pesticides, it is possible that bees would learn to steer clear of this harmful nectar if they did not become addicted to it. Sadly, a research team from Newcastle University determined that ingesting this particular pesticide gives bees a chemical reaction that is similar to humans who smoke cigarettes. In other words, when a bee eats the toxic nectar, their brain releases hormones that make them feel rewarded. With this being said, it is no wonder that bees tend to favor plants and crops that have been treated with this particular pesticide.
How Will This Affect Humans?
Colony Collapse Disorder has been a noticeable problem for the past 25 years, and the honey bee population in the U.S. is now 50 percent smaller than it was in the 1940s. Within the last decade, scientists have devoted a lot of time to figuring out why so many bees have died. It is currently unknown what exactly is causing Colony Collapse Disorder, but recent findings about neonicotinoid pesticides could help shed some light on this potentially devastating problem. In a nutshell, without enough bees to pollinate crops and plants, the global food source will become even less capable of providing for people’s nutritional needs. It is also worth noting that the global economy has been losing an estimated $5.7 billion annually as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder.
Can Bees Recover?
If it was to be conclusively determined that neonicotinoid laced pesticides are the main culprit in the dwindling bee population, it would be possible for legislation to be passed that could prevent further issues. The European Union took a major stand for bee health in 2013 by imposing a temporary, three year ban on the usage of pesticides that contain neonicotinoid. This could have given researchers worldwide the necessary data to determine if Colony Collapse Disorder is caused by this product, but the law has been severely weakened by several member states of the EU making the decision to provide their farmers with derogation. Additionally, changing pesticides has led to a big drop in the EU’s production of rapeseed as a result of increased insect infestations.
Complications such as those experienced in the EU highlight the fact that there is no simple answer. However, the reality is that humans will have issues surviving if we allow bees to perish.