Here is a video from CNN which gives an overview: CNN Video
How the United States and Europe are Handling the Issue:
The Washington Post claims that bees have hit a 50year low and that the crops effected by this shortage are worth a minimum of $207billion. The Post highlights the United States and the European Union are taking two different approaches towards this crisis. For instance, the EU has put a ban on pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, an extremely popular chemical found in pesticides which is closely linked to nicotine, until scientists discover the real issue behind the decline in the bee population. There are a few debates circulating about this particular issue. For example, some scientists claim that harmful chemicals that plants ingest may be contracted by bees through their pollen, thus causing a decline in productivity. All of this concern about bees has caused the EU to ultimately commit to a two year ban of such pesticides. On the other hand, the US Agricultural Department as well as the Environmental Protection Agency put out a study which claims that there are many factors that are plaguing the bees; neonicotinoids are only one of them. These factors include; the Varroa mite, viruses, bacterial diseases, nutritional factors and pesticides. Overall, the US is taking a more economic approach. Although they are aware that the pesticides may be an issue, they are not ready to commit to any bans as they will be at odds against the multibillion dollar pesticide industry.
Source: "Why are Bees Dying? The U.S. and Europe have Different Theories"
It is evident that pesticides may play a huge part in the global bee decline, However, diet is another huge factor in the bee crisis.
Bees’ diets also play a significant role in their productivity. Bermuda entomologist Claire Jessey highlights the stresses humans put on bees as well as their diet. As aforementioned in the interview with Jessey, she claims that in the United States, commercial beekeepers travel with their bees hundreds of miles from state to state to release their bees on individual farms to pollinate monocultures. This work puts lots of stress n bees in addition to the massive oversimplification of their diets. Bees are losing out on a well balanced diet and are far less productive as a result. The Huffington Post also confirms that bees naturally thrive when they hear their own honey. The nutrients in their own food detox and strengthen their immunity. To me, that is very similar to humans and breast milk as breast milk is also a self-produced and sustaining source that grants similar services as honey does to bees. The Post also notes that bees’ diets are substituted by sugar and high fructose corn syrup as all of the honey that bees produce is harvested and sold. They also note that the National Academy of Science states that the substituted diet keeps bees from being able to fight off disease, pests and makes them more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. Overall, the bee industry in the United States is driven by consumerism; unless producers decide to change the methods of this madness, there will be lesser profits but most importantly great impacts upon the environment as a whole.
Source: "U. S. Bee Deaths from Colony Collapse Disorder may be Tied to Diet, Study Finds"
What Else is Being Done?
Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International notes that various organizations such as the European Commission, Greenpeace and groups related to apiculture have noted various solutions to the be crisis such as the banning of pesticides, preservation of wild habitats and the restoration of ecological agriculture. He notes that eco-farming – although it has been around since the advent of farming- is one of the best options as it promotes diversity and a lack of chemicals. Eco-farms are resistant to insect problems that monocultures are prone to. Overall, eco-farming promotes the strength of species, food webs and habitats as they take on a holistic approach, although there is only one species at risk. Furthermore, Weyler notes that many organic farms are looking into new technologies for the improvement of their ecosystems as w whole, not only for the improvement of bees. Additionally, Climate Progress notes another initiative that is taking place. They report that the US Department of Agriculture’s investment of $3million into a program that will pay farmers in the states of Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to grow crops such as clover and alfalfa which will attract and nourish bees. Farmers can also gain incentives from moving their livestock from pasture to pasture to allow for the growth and covering of plants that attract bees to rotated pasture. Climate Progress goes on to say that these states were chosen because they are a “resting ground” for bees during the summer months. On the whole, there are many different options that can be considered if legislatures take a broadened point of view as opposed to the consumerist mentality that takes more than its willing to give.
Sources: "Honey Bee Collapse: A Lesson in Ecology" & "USDA Invests $3 Million Into Program To Boost Honeybee Numbers"
BBC notes that bees play a significant economical role. More specifically, they quote that the National Audit Offices says that the services of bees are worth £200million and that the retail value of their pollination equates to about £1billion. BBC confirms that there is no telling of the exact repercussions of the declining bee population on the UK’s fruit supplies. However, BBC quotes that the head of pollination research at Reading University says that the UK will have to start importing fruits from overseas. Also, BBC continues in stating that the costs related to bee-pollinating industries will increase. The UK may even have to take on pollination practices like that of China; industries were people go from plant to plant brushing the insides of flowers with pollen. This rise in labour will ultimately drive up the price of food. In my educated opinion, the economics of the bee is the most dangerous subject deal with. Although there are many people that may be put to work because of this, this does not appear to be sustainable as the price of food will increase. When the price of food increases, ultimately the price of living will increase. However, governments can make a way to subsidize the labour of pollination without increasing the price of food, yet there is no telling how this will affect the private sector. In addition, the possible increase of the cost of healthy foods cause a concern for public health as people that live in inner cities already struggle to have fresh produce. Overall, there are many factors that need to be considered when addressing the economic aspects of pollination.
Source: "The Economic Value of Honeybees"
The Economics of US Bees