Bumblebees and honeybees are an important part of Earth’s ecosystem and humanity relies on them more than you are likely to expect. It is estimated more than three quarters of the food you eat relies on insect pollination, and plants and forests rely on nature’s fertiliser.
This is why alarm bells ring for scientists when population numbers of bumblebees plummet – in the US and Europe, bee populations have declined by 30 percent.
One expert has now warned there could be major food shortages and financial despair if the bee populations were completely collapse.
The world’s crop industry is valued at up to £443billion ($ 577billion) and up to three quarters of that – £332billion – could be lost without the apoideas.
The loss of bees would also lead to a lack of food diversity, Philip Donkersley, Senior Research Associate in Entomology at Lancaster University, said.
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Bumblebees and honeybees are an important part of Earth’s ecosystem
He wrote in an article for The Conversation: “Over three-quarters of the world’s crops benefit from insect pollination, valued at USD$ 235-577bn annually.
“Out of the 124 staple crops grown for human consumption, 70 percent depend on insect pollination.
“Though the plight of honeybees tends to draw the most attention, recent research suggests that bumblebees are far more efficient pollinators.
“They are bigger and hairier and so can carry more pollen.
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“Over three-quarters of the world’s crops benefit from insect pollination, valued at USD$ 235-577bn annually.”
“They also groom themselves less and can transfer pollen more effectively to fertilise plants
“We could still grow food without bumblebees, but we might struggle to get enough and our diet wouldn’t be as diverse.
“Bumblebees give us a colourful diet of fruit and vegetables through their particular brand of pollination.
“We owe it to our fuzzy friends to help them survive the great changes that climate change will bring to their world.”
Climate change and an ever changing landscape thanks to human activity are to blame for the bees decline, but all hope is not lost yet, said Mr Donkersley.
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He said: “Climate change isn’t the only threat to bumblebees. Changes in how land is used – more pesticide-rich agriculture, less wild grassland – mean less forage.
“This has caused massive declines, even fairly recently. Cullum’s humble bumble (Bombus cullumanus) has declined by 80 percent globally since 2010
“But wild bumbles are resilient and respond faster to improvements in their habitat, such as wildflower strips, than honeybees.
“In the UK, the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) was declared extinct in 2000, but collaboration between the RSPB and Bumblebee Conservation Trust helped reintroduce the species to sites in southern England, near Dungeness and Romney Marsh.”