The title of this article, and the similar title of the IBRA conference held in London, reflects a growing awareness and interest in the demise of the world's wild bees, and the impact this may have on other wildlife, ecosystems (including agroecosystems) and the world's economy. Invertebrate Red Data Book and analagous lists invariably contain a high percentage of the bee species of a geographic location. As an example, over 50% of the bee species in the state of Baden Württemberg, SW Germany, are considered to be under threat. The situation seems little better elsewhere. Many bee species appear threatened with extinction, with the general consensus of opinion falling on humans as the culprits, through their degradation and destruction of habitats.
I see three major arguments for the conservation of wild bees, namely:
Bees are of conservation value in their own right, as a component of the world's biodiversity.
Bees are important components of natural ecosystems and play a big role in their functioning. As such, they are important for the conservation, directly or indirectly, of other wildlife.
Bees are important in agriculture as crop pollinators.
Though there may be much overlap in all three arguments, and though advocates of wild bee conservation may variously use these arguments in the defense of bees, by simplifying the arguments it may be possible to highlight their essential elements and thereby indicate where we require extra input, in terms of discussion or research, to understand how to reduce, even about-turn the demise of wild bees. I shall deal with each in turn, and hope to highlight a few salient points where information is lacking.
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Many of our crops - including oilseed rape, coffee, onions, almonds, tomatoes and strawberries - depend on wild bee fertilization.
Pollination is needed for about three-quarters of global food crops. The decline of honeybee colonies due to disease and pesticides has prompted serious concern. Jason Tylianakis, at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, described them as "the species charged with protecting global food security".
Two pesticides damage bees' brains.
Commonly used pesticides are destroying honey bee brains, latest studies advice.
Scientists have found that 2 kids of chemicals known as coumaphos and neonicotinoids are interfering with insect capability to remember and learn.
Tests revealed that exposure was also decreasing brain activity, especially when the 2 pesticides were used together.
Soaring bee deaths threaten fruit and vegetables. Colony Collapse Disorder expands drastically in the past year. In the San Joaquin Valley of California "commercial beekeepers who only recently were losing a third of their bees to the disorder say the past year has brought far greater losses."
A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.
... many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests.
While each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths.
The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths.
Older pesticides could kill bees and other beneficial insects. But while they quickly degraded — often in a matter of days — neonicotinoids persist for weeks and even months. [emphasis mine]
Since the 70s bee keepers have been tanking the honey away from bee colonies and feeding them high fructose corn syrup instead. This compromises their immune systems.
A team of entomologists from the University of Illinois has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.
The researchers aren't suggesting that high-fructose corn syrup is itself toxic to bees, instead, they say their findings indicate that by eating the replacement food instead of honey, the bees are not being exposed to other chemicals that help the bees fight off toxins...