When we hear the word extinction, “dinosaurs” is often the first word that comes to mind. Recently, we have come to recognize that extinction entails troublesome contemporary consequences. The more recent extinction of many animal species is largely due to poaching, destruction of habitat, and illegal trade in wildlife. We try to address this issue by creating more natural preserves, developing treaties and enacting legislation to protect species more effectively. A quite recent concern deals with a group of species that has recently become associated with extinction — bees. Bees have been decreasing in number, apparently due to the excessive use of pesticides in crops and a bee parasite.
Some, especially if they are allergic, have asked: “So what if bees become extinct?” In fact, the extinction of bees is causing great alarm, not just with environmentalists and conservationists, but also with farmers and economists. According to Greenpeace, bees’ pollination work should be valued at around $300 billion. The bees’ pollination work is vital to the survival of flora, including about a third of our crops, such as apples, sweet potatoes, almonds, lettuce and garlic. And this extinction process is not that sudden; bee populations started to decrease in the 1990s.
The numbers have gotten more significant recently. For example, there has been a 40% loss of commercial bees in the U.S. since 2006 and a 45% loss of commercial bees in the U.K. since 2010. As mentioned above, the decreasing population of bees has been attributed to pesticides used on crops, and a parasite, the Vampire Mite (Varroa Destructor), which was introduced to North America from Asia in the 1980s. Like its namesake, this mite sucks the bees’ blood, and in the process, spreads an infection that leads to death. According to The Atlantic, since the 1990s, the bee death rate has doubled and the mite has developed resistance to the chemicals used to eradicate it. Other reasons for the decrease are the losses of bee habitat and forage. Some believe that if bees were to become extinct, it could significantly affect human populations.
The decrease in bee population will take a bite out of our food supply and economy. Worrisomely, several bee species have been placed on the endangered species list. Let’s hope we can find ways to take them off this list for good.