Bee Shortage Threatens Crops
The buzz and a few billion dollars
UK farmers have a fourth of the honeybees they need, according to a recent study published in PLOS ONE, but the gap represents more than a shortage in Britain. Bees are dying around the world, and pollination demand is growing nearly five times faster than the available honeybee population.
An unusually harsh winter explains most of the worldwide bee gap, but if the polar vortex had been the only force threatening these honeycombers, global mortality rates would not continue to trend upward—31 percent in the United States, 33.6 percent in Latvia (and that’s compared to a 10 percent “acceptable” mortality rate published by the European Commission).
Colony collapse disorder hit the United States in 2013, costing farmers who rely on pollination to increase crop yield some $30 billion. In Northern Europe, the European Commission found a frightening predominance of varroa destructor—the parasite responsible for bee colony collapse disorder in Canada and Hawaii—in Latvia and Poland.
Thirty-nine of the world’s 57 major crops yield more when bees pollinate them. For now, wild honeybees make up the difference.
Wild pollinators cover $3 billion of pollination costs in the UK, but they might face extinction. The European Commission recently found that almost a quarter of Europe’s 68 bumblebee species are threatened with extinction.
So, please, don’t call an exterminator.