19 Crops That Would Disappear Without Bees
And the gaping hole they would leave on the dinner table
Keywords Bees, Environment, Fruit, Honey, Spring, Pollinators
The theories were numerous, but the data were scarce. Some people thought that cellphone towers were interfering with the bees’ ability to navigate; others thought that the bees were falling prey to the usual suspects, including the varroa mite and the fungal bacteria nocema ceranae; while another popular theory was climate change. But, no one really knew for sure, because CCD very rarely left behind any dead bees in the broken hive that could be examined.
The most compelling theory, though, has to do with bee husbandry, and brings us full circle back to the issue of systemic pesticides. Beekeepers in the United States no longer generate the majority of their revenue from sales of honey; the value of honey sold annually in the United States amounts only to $150 million a year, according to the NRDC, a mere fraction of the value of the crops pollinated by bees.
The life of a typical bee in this business consists of following the major cash crops around the country as the seasons change, and that means a lot of traveling on trucks. California alone requires half of all the honeybees in the United States for its $2.3 billion almond crop annually, according to the NRDC.
So stress is probably a major issue, but far more relevant is the fact that while on the road, there is no access to local flora to collect nectar for honey. So instead, according to Halter, they subsist on a steady diet of corn syrup, usually genetically modified and laden with residual neonicotinoids. Halter estimates that about 2.5 million hives are trucked around this manner every year.
Just what is so insidious about neonicotinoids? Neonicotinoids differ from older style pesticides which were applied through spraying; instead, they generally come in the form of pellets, which are taken up by the roots of the plant when watered, and end up concentrated in the pollen and nectar that bees pick up when foraging. But, it doesn’t end there. Subsequent generations of the plant will also contain trace amounts of the pesticide and secrete them as well.
Studies performed by companies which produce these neonicotinoids have tested only in lethal doses and observed the bees immediately after exposure. But, in the real world, bees are never really exposed to such high concentrations all at once. Instead, the concern lies with the accumulated effects of repeated exposure in lower concentrations, which are difficult to test, and thus have not been tested. In other words, the use of these systemic pesticides could lead to a delayed detrimental effect on bee populations.