Roles of Bees in Food Production and Alarming Rates of Decline in Bees Population

by Olalekan Abdulsalami on 11 Jun 2020 • 1 comments
4 min read

For effective food supply, the question quite literally is not about whether to bee but to bee(bees are necessary for effective food supply).

And without a healthy population of the flying insect pollinators, the livelihood of millions of people and global supplies of crops like coffee, apples, strawberries and chocolate are threatened. 

Bees, butterflies and other species help produce $24 billion of crops. Honeybee pollination alone accounts for $15 billion in crops from more than 130 fruits and vegetables, the Obama administration estimated. Nearly a third of all food and beverages are made possible by insect pollination, the majority of it coming from honeybees. 

Bees feed on pollen and nectar. The honey bee lives an average of 21 days, and then dies. The queen bee can live up to a year or more. Although a single bee travels approximately 55,000 miles during its life time, each bee produces only about one tenth of one teaspoon of honey. So the production of honey for our tastes and needs requires colonies of bees.

Importance of Bees

Bees are often perceived as pesky insects, but most people don’t understand the value of bees, bees do more, much more than merely produce honey. Bees are the foremost pollinators of the crops that we grow. About every third mouthful we eat is food that is dependent on bees. It is true that dairy produce such as milk, butter and cheese do not come from crops, but even grass is indirectly reliant on bees since grass requires nitrogen in the soil that is produced by clover that does depends on bees for its pollination. 

Collapse of Bee Colonies

In recent years bee colonies around the world have been collapsing at an unprecedented rate, a rate that is alarming many food producers because it affects every crop that depends directly or indirectly on bees for pollination. Many beekeepers have lost all or some of their hives. The phenomenon is called 'colony collapse disorder' and is recorded in Europe, Asia and the United States. In parts of China, the bee has disappeared altogether, and pollination now has to be done by hand which is labour intensive and takes much longer. At present this is done efficiently and 'free of charge' by bees. But some scientists believe that if bees continue to die out at the present rate, bees may disappear altogether within a few years. 


Why the Decline in Bees?

Researchers have looked at viruses, parasites, insecticides, malnutrition and other environmental factors but have been unable to pinpoint a specific cause for the decline of bees. Under normal conditions 10% of bee colonies are lost during cold seasons, and a harsh one is likely to accentuate the problem.

Destruction of habitat, increasing monoculture and greater use of pesticides on crops could also be contributing factors to the bee decline. Habitat is being destroyed as more land is given to agriculture and development. Monoculture is where a single crop is grown but one of the problems with this is that bees can then feed only on a limited form of food so that their immune system is weakened to such an extent that they cannot withstand viruses and diseases. The bees are also often the victims of pesticides which are sprayed on the crops to kill other pests. Ironically, the decline in bees in part stems from the expansion of agriculture to feed people, but destroying bee populations can hurt the very crops that growers are trying to optimize: Growing more food means that we need pollinators!

If the decline in the bee population can be reversed, consumers and food manufactures will need to be at the forefront of the change.

Food manufacturers will have to alter current practices, and consumers should be more curious about where their food comes from and the impact that their economic decisions at the grocery store may be having on the environment including bee populations.

According to experts, the best thing to help bees survive, is to try to limit the destruction of bee habitats, the characteristic places where bees thrive. Bee habitats which contain a rich biodiversity enable the bees to feed on wide variety of shrub and tree blossoms and wild flowers so that they build up strong immune systems that protect them against viruses and disease. 

You can also make your garden an attractive place for bees, butterflies and other insects simply by planting herbs which you will also be able to use in your cooking.

“If companies, consumers, media and organizations can join together for the bees, we can all make informed decisions to help reverse some of the issues the bees are now facing.”


Importance of bees in food production[ Retrieved from on 11th June 2020]

Reasons for bee decline[Retrieved from on 10th June 2020]

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  1. 28 Jun 2020 AT 17:19 PM

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