After US President Obama urged a tally of wild bee population numbers in 2014, researchers across the US have found that their numbers are currently dwindling and that a wild bee population decline may spell disaster for US crops. The farms and crops in question are those that rely heavily on bee pollinators for reproduction and the general well-being of their crops.
Even though other insect pollinators are also responsible for plant reproduction, wild bees are by far the most effective as well as the most wide-spread of pollinators. The tally in question was carried out for over 5 years, due to the difficulty of exactly counting the number of wild bees. The percentage fell about 34% across the US, mostly due to converting vast areas of land to biofuel crops made out of corn.
The economic impact of bees is estimated to reach almost $3 billion on a yearly basis. The removal of this intake in agricultural value would completely throw the market in disarray. Unfortunately, this cannot be circumvented by only a reduction in biofuel crops.
Because according to US laws, fuel has to contain at least 10% ethanol, gathered from corn, crops have been multiplying by almost 200% over the entire US region. Key agricultural regions like the Midwest and California have suffered the most from this extensive increase in corn crops, while, at the same time, the wild bee population faced a decrease of 29%.
This is almost completely different from the bee crisis present in Europe. There, the main factors that are currently being carefully studied are insecticides containing neonicotinoid chemicals. These types of insecticides lead to mass colony collapse disorder outbreaks. Even if in the US the study linked biofuel crops to the population decline, insecticides were not completely ignored, because the main areas currently suffering are those who had a massive boom in agriculture.
The safety-net provided by operators of honey bees that put bee hives up for rent in order to supply pollinators has been suffering over the past couple of years as well. This method leaves honey bees extremely vulnerable to colony collapse disorder, a fact that was clearly seen since 2014 when operators faced a devastating number of losses in their honey bee numbers.
Circumventing this decline is not a hard to reach goal. By simply allocating a plot of unaltered land in which bees can thrive, without being under the constant threat of insecticides, their number will slowly start to grow. Because farmers have marginal lands near their farms, this method is both cost effective and easy to do. But it comes at the price of slowing down the expansion of said farm.
Even if the general public can mainly think of only two types of bees, honeybees and wild bees, there are over 4.000 bee species in the US. All of them are under the same threats of chemical intoxication, various disease outbreaks, natural environment decrease and especially climate change. The most common side effect of these factors is colony collapse disorder in which worker bees flee the hive, leaving the queen behind, effectively sentencing the hive to death.
Because a wild bee population decline may spell disaster for US crops, researchers and scientists are urging farmers to take measures in order to counteract this phenomenon. But these measures have to be taken on a massive scale if the goal of quelling this decrease, and in best cases even boosting population numbers, is to be achieved in the near future.