Bees: Do Humans Really Need Them?


The question of the importance of bees is still continuing in legislative offices and board rooms. However, the debate if humans really do need them has been finished from the start for America’s bee keepers. Farmers know that without the bees a third of the crops will not grow. There is no method of pollination more efficient than nature’s. The endangered crops are some of people’s favorites, fruits, nuts, vegetables and seeds, which could not thrive without the bees.

When bee colonies first starting to collapse and disappear, people were baffled as to the cause. Scientists and activists began investigating and quickly postulated that pesticides may be disrupting the neurological functions of bees, causing them to get lost and die. A new Harvard study released in the May Bulletin of Insectology confirms this suspicion.

However this is far from decisive. These pesticides have been banned in Europe, but they still report bee loss. The chemicals are also in use in Australia and Canada, but these regions do not report extreme die-off. Humans do need to discover the real cause for bees’ distress, and protect them.

Eugene Oregon has become the first U.S. city to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. The motivation for this was an incident where 50,000 bumblebees died after coming in contact with blooming linden trees that had been dusted with the pesticides. This was a violation, and the Department of Agriculture admitted it as the cause for the huge die-off. It appears that these pesticides play a role, but are not the sole cause, of the deaths.

A study released in the summer of 2013 links fungicides to the weakening of the bees’ immune systems. The pollen the scientists checked contained an average of nine different chemicals, which the bees were exposed to. Scientists discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicide infestation are three times more likely to catch the deadly parasite, Nosema ceranae.

The combination of neonicotinoid pesticides, fungicides, parasites and the general stress of mono-agricultural bee use is culminating in massive threat to bee health. The current situation is that U.S. bee population is so low that it takes 60% of the country’s entire bee population to pollinate one crop of California almonds. California supplies most of the world’s almonds.

The documentary Wings of Life, produced by Disney Nature, does a wonderful job of illumining how pivotal all pollinators are to humanity’s way of life. Using the finest high-speed, close-up lenses, bees, butterflies, birds and bats are caught in the act of pollinating all over the world. The simplicity of their drive for nectar belies the importance of their evolutionary niche. The film underlines this well, telling the pollinator’s story from the perspective of flowers. Without pollinators there would be no flowers, and without flowers there would be no pollinators. Lacking this dance of love, the planet would be a colder and less fruitful place.

The intimacy of this reciprocal relationship is revealed in its delicate beauty as a reminder of humanity’s interconnection with nature in this beautiful film. It has been released at a time when these small dances of life need a spotlight. The industrial powers of science are a valuable development for modern humans, but could not replace the efficiency of nature without major loss to quality of life and the incurring of huge expense. The American legislature dedicated a small amount of money to this cause in the Farm Bill that was passed last year. However, allocating $2 million a year does not offer much support for this valuable industry.

What is needed is a holistic investigation of suspected causes weighed against the loss of bees in agriculture. Using the same economic model that companies use to decide if a recall is necessitated, the cost of changing the model of operations that negatively affect the bees must be weighed against the loss of their contribution. It has been reported that bees pollinate $30 billion worth of crops, and the loss of 10 million hives cost America $2 billion. Bees are essential for humans to really thrive, and the search continues for a much needed holistic solution as some activists ask if people will do what it takes to preserve them.

Opinion by Grace Pollari

CBS News
One Green Planet
Disney Nature
Business Insider

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