If Bees were extinct…
This is a common question that we find ourselves asking more and more. It is an increasing threat; one that is becoming more and more likely that we will have to contemplate as each year passes and bee numbers get lower and lower. Bees are incredibly important to the global ecosystems for food and crop harvesting.
World Bee Day
With the 20th May now designated as World Bee Day, by the United Nations, it’s importance in raising awareness is not to be overlooked.
The UN-designated World Bee Day was created to raise awareness of the importance of bees and just how fragile the ecosystems of the world are with the global bee population perilously close to being wiped out. Bees are under a continuous threat from human activity, which includes the introduction of invasive and destructive pesticides, diversification and changes to land-use, and monocropping practices which have been destroying bee colonies over time.
World Bee Day helps educate people about the importance of bees and what they do for the environment, which includes how they help grow 90% of the world’s wildflower plants, 35% of the world’s crops depend on bees to grow, and how they help build ecosystems all over the developed world.
These fantastic fuzzy creatures help keep our plants and our planet alive.
What would happen if bees were extinct?
We all have a vested interest in helping our buzzy, little friends. We need to save them.
Bees have long supported humans, with the production of honey being a monumental discovery for our ancestors. Most plants, including the very fruits, vegetables and crops that we rely on daily, need the help of pollinators, like bees, as well as birds, and beetles to continue their life cycle and grow fruit.
Why we need bees
Bees are highly efficient pollinators — a hive of just 20,000 bees can pollinate an entire acre of crop — and they’re under threat from climate change, agricultural practices like industrial crop and biodiversity reduction techniques (AKA monoculture), and chiefly, pesticides.
So, there is a very real threat of losing bees. But what would it mean if bees were extinct?
Well, there is a very real chance we would lose the following foods:
- Avocado — say goodbye to the trendiest of all toast toppings without mass pollinators, like the honeybee around.
- Alfalfa — “No great loss, there” we hear you cry. True, Alfalfa being a crop used in silage and hay in world agriculture; primarily a grazing crop, we would not directly miss the loss of alfalfa. But, cows would…
So, take a guess as to where it would hit us…
…Yep. An important factor in the production of dairy products, bees pollinate masses of grazing crop for beef cattle, which are immediately at risk with the loss of bees.
- Pumpkins — In fact, forget squashes in general, such as courgette, cucumber, and maybe even watermelon.
- Tea — the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is heavily reliant on pollinators, and without them, no morning brew…
- Tomatoes — The tomato plant needs a special type of vibration in order to pollinate; a vibration that is naturally achieved by bumblebees, who shake the pollen loose. Finding a commercial way to do this would be expensive and would yield less fruit, so bees are key here too.
- Strawberry — OK, so in this instance, we may not completely lose strawberries – they’re a clever fruit, capable of self-pollination – however, pollination, helped in no small form from bees helps to produce bigger and better strawberries. This helps the growth of the fruit to be more economically sustainable.
- Cacao — So, if the thought of losing tea wasn’t enough to get you on side, then we are about to start hitting where it hurts. Insect pollinators are absolutely critical to the pollination of cacao pods…
…and if you’re not sure what cacao is, then you may know it by its other name, cocoa. Yes, these colourful little pods make chocolate. You can wave goodbye to that sweet taste.
- Coffea cherries — Yes, that absolutely is what you think it is. These cherries – or berries, as some refer to them – are harvested for their seeds (beans) in order to make coffee.
- Apples — Principally grown in China and the US for mass exportation, there is a rich cultural history of apple growing, English orchards, and so on, that dates back centuries. Apples are chiefly pollinated by a few different species of bees. Are you ready to lose your cider?
- Cherries — Honeybees again, are a prime pollinator of the cherry, which is primarily a Northern Hemisphere export.
These are just a few examples…
These are 10 of the everyday food items which would be lost or forever changed if bees were extinct or died out tomorrow. The loss of the humble bumblebee and other ‘garden’ varieties of the bee would be catastrophic.
It’s time to take the things that are harming them seriously, don’t you think?
Where to start
The big issues that stand in the way of bees’ continued existence is being tackled slowly. But please keep your awareness about you, and lend your voice to discussion and change where you can.
On a smaller level, there are things you can do to make bees feel more welcome in your own back garden. We cannot afford the future we would inherit if bees were extinct, so we have put down some suggestions here: