By Genevieve Bohnak, The University of Akron Intern
We have all seen the 2007 family film the Bee Movie starring Jerry Seinfeld as Barry B. Benson, who takes us on a journey on the life of a honeybee. As we saw in the movie, the work of the honeybee is vital for humans and for nature. Honeybees are responsible for the production of honey but also responsible for transferring pollen from one plant to another – often fostering new life for many agricultural species. As well as pollenating flowers, honeybees also pollenate crops that we eat every day. Honeybees help pollinate more than 900 commercial grown field crops, citrus and other fruit crops, and vegetables and nut crops.
However in the recent years, scientist and environmentalist have found a decline in the honeybee population. Commercial beekeepers in the United States have reported death of tens of thousands of honeybee colonies. 90% of wild bees populations in the United States have disappeared according to Target Heath Inc. Bees in the Netherlands and United Kingdom have also declined dramatically while some have even become extinct!
Since 2006, millions of honeybees have died off due a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. CCD is the absence of adult honeybees in a colony with few or no adults remaining. Worker bees simply disappear leaving behind the queen and vulnerable developing young. This type of behavior is unusually for honeybee – to leave the hive unguarded. Similar disappearances have been documented in the last 100 years but these incidents have grown considerably within the last years.
Officials of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have not been able to determine why the honeybee populations have been declining but some believe that a combination of factors could be responsible. These factors include parasites, lack of genetic diversity, poor nutrition, and pesticides. Examination of dead bees have found residues of more than 100 chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, including some that are used to control parasites in beehives.
Another factor that comes into play is the climate changes that affect wildflower production. Rainy, wet, or overly dry weather can wreak havoc on the landscape resulting in fewer flowers which results to a smaller bee population. Besides the smaller amount of flowers, crop yields would decrease significantly and some of those crops might not even exist! Without the help of the honeybees, food production would decease while price of production would increase significantly!
Scientist are currently still studying the situation and working toward a solution to restore the honeybee population. Individuals can do their part by keeping plenty of blooming flowers in their yards, never killing honeybees found on property, and not disturbing an establish hive that would lead to the bees abandoning their work. We certainly do not want a similar situation like in the Bee Movie when all bees stopped working and all plant life died do we?