Wild Bees

While most of the media focus on energy, the biggest concern in relation to our ability to sustain on Earth is food.  As most of us are urban dwellers, our connection to food is primarily via the grocery store, and we’re not intimately connected to farms and crops.  And as long as we see an abundance of food on the supermarket’s shelves, it’s difficult to envision dire shortages.

The problem is: if a shortage does occur, it’s “too late.”  We can’t simply hope a new shipment comes next week, as we do when a major storm hits our area.  So … we need to take action now to prevent the likelihood of a future shortage.  And the action we need to take is neither difficult nor costly.

But … it’s essential.

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Lack of Wild Bees Causes

Crop Shortage, Could Lead

to Food Security Issues

Tiffany Duong

EcoWatch

Jul. 31, 2020

 

Bees are responsible for pollinating key crops

like apples, and their decline now threatens crop.

 

Without bees, future generations may not be able to identify with adages like, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’

Crop yields for key crops like apples, cherries and blueberries are down across the U.S. because of a lack of bees in agricultural areas, a Rutgers University-led study published Wednesday in The Royal Society found. This could have “serious ramifications” for global food security, reported The Guardian.

The scientists wanted to understand the degree to which insect pollination, or lack thereof, actually limits current crop production. Surveying 131 locations across major crop-producing areas of the U.S., they found that five out of seven crops showed evidence of “pollinator limitation” and that yields could be boosted with full pollination, the study said.

Rachael Winfree, an ecologist and pollination expert and the senior author of the paper, reported in The Guardian

 

“The crops that got more bees got significantly

more crop production. I was surprised, I didn’t

expect they would be limited to this extent.”

 

The research further noted that pollinator declines could “translate directly” to decreased production of most of the crops studied and that wild bees “contribute substantially” to the pollination of most studied crops.

Declines in both managed honeybees and wild bees raise serious concerns about global food security, the study said, because most of the world’s crops rely on pollinators.

Bees and other pollinators like bats and birds underpin the global food system, but their populations are dwindling due to human activity including settlement building, pesticide use, monoculture farming and climate change. This is part of what many are calling the “insect apocalypse,” a precipitous decline in insects across the globe.

Wild bees, in particular, suffer from loss of flowering habitat, toxic pesticide use, and climate change, The Guardian reported, and managed honeybees have fallen to disease. Overall, three-quarters of the world’s food crops are dependent on pollinators and could falter due to lack of bees, the news report added.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, crop production has increasingly become dependent upon insects and other pollinators over the past 50 years by 300%, The Guardian reported. At the same time, farming has become more intensive to produce enough volume to feed a growing global population, the news report said, by flattening wildflower meadows, spraying insecticides and using monoculture crops ‒ all tactics which damage bee populations.

“Pollination shortfalls” could cause certain fruits and vegetables to become rarer and more expensive, The Guardian reported. This could trigger nutritional deficits in diets as fresh foods are replaced by rice, wheat and corn, which are pollinated by wind rather than insects.

The study estimated that the five limited crops are valued at over $1.5 billion annually, and decreased yields or production seriously undercut that. They also noted that the value of all pollinator-dependent crops is much higher. A 2019 UN-backed assessment estimated that pollinator loss could threaten $235-577 billion in annual crop output globally.

The study suggested adopting better conservation or augmentation methods for wild bees, such as enhancing wildflowers, using managed pollinators other than honey bees to boost crop yields and investing in honey bee colonies, reported Futurity. The paper also recommended farmers review how much pollination might be needed to boost crop yields and assess whether pesticide and fertilizer levels used remains appropriate, The Guardian reported. Winfree told The Guardian …

 

“The trends we are seeing now are setting

us up for food security problems. We aren’t

yet in a complete crisis now but the trends

aren’t going in the right direction. Our

study shows this isn’t a problem for 10 or 20

years from now – it’s happening right now.”

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As I often do, I asked D, the entity my wife channels, for comments …

 

“Pollinators are critical to life. Critical because they pollinate so many crops that are, at the very least, vital. But more importantly, they’re interesting and delightful. 

“For urban dwellers, please do not spray for mosquitos. The sprays that are used to kill mosquitos kill all flying insects, including pollinators. 

“The second thing to do if you have space is to plant flowers – especially annuals – and wild flowers are the best bet to draw in pollinators, and keep them hearty. If you have space on your site, flowering trees are also helpful. 

“And third, if you can, raise bees. There are web sites and local clubs that can guide you.  Bees can actually pollinate crops five miles away.

“The problem is mostly caused by chemicals. And the problem is further aggravated by the loss of food for the bees, which is pollen. That’s due to the loss of wild fields, or large areas of flowers or flowering trees. 

“This problem has the potential to be catastrophic.”

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