Bee Shortages Affecting Crops In B.C. & U.S.

By Ben Hamill - August 03 2020

Bee Shortages Affecting Crops In B.C. & U.S.

Bees are among the hardest-working creatures on earth, ensuring the reproduction of a variety of wild and cultivated plants by pollination, thereby protecting everything from biodiversity to global food production and security. And according to a study published earlier on this week in the Royal Society’s journal Biological Sciences, a shortage of wild bees and managed honeybees is severely limiting crop-yields on farms across British Columbia and the United States.

The study was compiled based on data gleaned from at least 130 farms located in the abovementioned regions, and with a particular focus on crop yields for highbush blueberries, apples, almonds, pumpkins, watermelons and sweet as well as tart cherries.

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No Sugar-Coating The Facts

Of the crops included in the study, at least 5 showed signs of limited yields resulting from a low pollinator’s presence, with blueberry crops in British Columbia discovered to be the most affected of all, said Kyle Bobiwash, co-author of the study and assistant professor in entomology at Manitoba University.

Crops dependent on bees make up at least 35 per cent of the planet’s crop production, and without pollinators humanity will eventually face tremendous food shortages. In the U.S. alone, those crops dependent on pollinators generate well in excess of $50 billion annually. Limited pollinator numbers could eventually completely wipe out all of the abovementioned foodstuffs, not to mention even coffee, cocoa, and even tomatoes – all of which are heavily reliant on effective pollination for survival.

Dwindling pollinator numbers ultimately affect up to two-thirds of the crop plants necessary to feed the world. Not only does pollination determine crop yield, but it also has a direct bearing on variety, quality and basic nutritional value. 

Massive Global Decline

Bees are declining at alarming rates in many parts of the world. This is the result of a combination of things, including over-intensive commercial farming practices, higher temperatures brought on by climate change and pollution, the abundant and sometimes even excessive use of agricultural chemicals, and mono-cropping.

The problem, points out Bobiwash, is that restoring pollination isn’t quite as simple as bringing more honeybees to every farm that needs them. Some crops require honeybees for maximum pollination value, while others rely heavily on wild bees.

A rise in global temperatures introduces even more complications to the overall scenario. Since climate change has been shown to interfere with the intimate relationship between plants and pollinators (these include not only bees, but also bats and birds), forever-warming temperatures can potentially affect everything from plants blooming out of turn or season, and bees emerging at unusual intervals throughout the year.

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