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Missing Bees

Why are Disappearing Bees a Serious Concern to the Environment?

Why are missing bees a concern? How to help disappearing bees survive and thrive? Are certain types of bees more at risk? Find out about the bee life cycle and why bees and pollination are important.

Missing bees are signaling important environmental issues.

Disappearing bees are an issue because honey bees pollinate our grains, fruits, and vegetables. Our meats come from animals that are fed grains. Our milk and dairy products come from grain fed animals. The entire agriculture cycle would be affected by disappearing bees.

There are about 20,000 different bee species in the world, including honey bees, bumble bees, ground bees, orchid bees and many more.

During the past decade, more and more disappearing or missing bees have been reported.

Entire bee hives have collapsed as the bees never return and, in fact, disappear. This issue has been named as "colony collapse disorder" and it is now becoming recognized as a world wide issue.

In the United States, there has been a reported 30% decrease in honey bee population over the last three years. The cause of the missing bees is still undetermined although scientists are looking at genetically modified foods, wireless technology, pesticides, parasites, and potentially new viruses.

It is important for us to recognize what impact our actions and our interference has on wildlife. By commercializing bee colonies, we have provided a much easier target for mite infestations and transmissions (many colonies all in close proximity with one another).

missing beesBy genetically modifying foods we are interrupting nature’s balance. By using pesticides and intensive farming techniques we are wiping out bee hives and bee colonies. We have interfered with the bee life cycle and now are witnessing the impact; disappearing bees.

Bees and pollination are of critical importance to our agriculture and, therefore, to our world's food supply.

To understand bees, it is necessary to know more about them:

Types of Bees or the 'Family Structure' of the Colony

  • All bees have the same 'family' structure within their bee colony: the types of bees in the structure are worker bees, drone bees and the queen bee.
  • In the early days of the bee life cycle, the worker bees (which are all female) clean the hive cells, produce wax that is shaped into the honeycomb, and guard the hive's entrance. When the worker bee leaves the hive, it collects water, nectar and pollen.
  • The drone bees (which are male) have large, strong wings for their mating flight with the queen bee. The drones only 'job' is to mate with the queen. The drones are about 10% of the overall bee population in the hive. The worker bees take care of the drones until winter comes, then the worker bees bite off the drones' wings and push them out of the hive because they are no longer of any use to the colony.
  • The queen bee lays all of the eggs and is fed by the worker bees. She is solely responsible for reproducing. The queen bee may lay the egg of another queen bee, the worker bees must feed it the royal larvae jelly. When the young queen bee is born, the old queen will either kill it or leave the hive with about half of the colony (it is called a swarm of bees).

Bees and Pollination

There are three types of pollination: self pollination, pollination by a different flower within the same plant, and pollination from a different plant (also known as cross-pollination).

Wind and/or bees are primarily responsible for cross-pollination. Honey bees are very efficient at pollination. The entire colony over-winters and therefore they are ready to 'work' in the Spring when the flowers arrive.

The Honey Bees have forked body hairs and a pollen 'basket' that allow them to carry pollen back to the colony. It is the overflow of pollen, and the travel from flower to flower, that does the job of cross-pollinating. Honey bees have an effective communication system amongst themselves to direct bees to flowering plants and crops. Bees are attracted to flowers and flowering plants and crops by sight (through color) and smell.

Reasons for Disappearing Bees

  • Intensive farming methods destroy bee colonies. Bees nest in soil or trees or bushes. By eliminating the brush and cultivating every inch of land, by using pesticides during the growing season, we are eliminating bees.
  • Additionally urbanization is taking its toll. Land is being used for highways, buildings, and spreading out into traditionally rural areas. Bees are not thriving under these conditions.
  • Wireless technology produces radiation and while scientists have not yet proven a cause/effect relationship, there is a strong belief that it is a factor in the missing bees issue.
  • Additionally genetically modified foods crops are believed to have an impact on the disappearing bees. More research on this potential cause is being conducted.
  • Mites (Varrao and Tracheal mites) are also responsible for the missing bees issue - these mites are killing bees in large numbers. Some scientists argue that if the bees were healthier and if they had better and healthier living conditions the mites would have less impact because the bees would have more resistance.

For more on missing bees, bees and pollination, how bees make honey and what we can do (think Bee Condos), please visit Disappearing Bees and Types of Bees - the Honey Bee.

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