When you read the word ‘bee’ what do you think of? A nasty bee sting? Bee hives and honey? Maybe even Honeypuffs cereal?
The first thing we should be thinking is ‘pollination,’ the process that enables fertilization and reproduction of plants. Without this ongoing transfer of pollen, most plants — and subsequent fruits and vegetables — won’t grow.
Bee Populations Dwindling… Fast
Unfortunately, agricultural pesticides and fungicides are inadvertently exterminating entire bee colonies. This occurrence, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, is not a new topic here on Care2. Although don’t ask pesticide giant Monsanto about it; they’ll tell you the CCD is just ones of nature’s unsolvable mysteries.
Now according to the USDA, one in three bites of food we eat is the direct or indirect result of bee pollination. You can interpret that as meaning if bees don’t exist, one third of your food won’t exist either.
The problem is fast becoming a reality.
A new survey run by the University of Strathclyde in the U.K. found that 156 of the 498 farmed Scottish honey bee colonies died out last winter – that’s 31% of colonies, almost double the previous year’s loss rate of 16%. The university also collects data on wild honey bee populations and concluded that feral colonies now have a survival rate of just 45 percent — the worst winter survival rate since monitoring began five years ago.
Upon analyzing the findings, head of the study Dr. Alison Gray warned that, “Honey bees worldwide are having to contend with habitat loss and reduction in variety of forage sources due to pressures of intensifying land use, increasing spread of new and old pests – caused by globalisation of trade in bees and bee products – as well as possible adverse effects of agricultural pesticides.”
Six Foods That Won‘t Grow Without Bees
Let’s take a quick look at 6 popular foods that just won’t grow naturally when the bees are gone:
Almonds rely solely on honey bee pollination at bloom time. Without the bees, almonds cannot grow. The Californian almond orchards have the largest managed pollination event in the world, where about one million hives (half of all U.S. honey bees) are transported to the almond orchards each spring.
Berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, are 90% dependant on honey bees to pollinate them before bloom. Maine’s blueberry crop uses 50,000 hives each year.
Much the same as berries, the growth of cherries is about 90% dependant on bee pollination.
Currently the eggplant has unknown pollination requirements, but many studies have found that without the frequent visit from bees the plant does not fruit.
These plants are unable to self-pollinate at all, and thus rely heavily on bees stopping by. Bumble bees actually pollinate tomatoes better than honey bees. Unfortunately bumble bees are dying out too.
Apples are one of the most popular and most affordable orchard fruits in the world. New York’s apple crop alone requires 30,000 bee hives annually for the pollination process. Apples could still grow without bee pollination, but at a tiny fraction of the current amount.
Honorable mention: Citrus fruits and melons are also heavily reliant on pollination.
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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