Climate Change: The Buzzkill

From the past few years, a lot of honey bees seem to be mysteriously disappearing. They fly out of their hives in search of nectar and never return. It’s called the colony collapse disorder. Honey bees are responsible for the honey we eat (learn how honey is made) , but honey is just a cherry on top of the many things they do for the environment. In the process of collecting nectar for honey, bees pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species which feed 90 percent of the world.

The spring phenomenon, which triggers the nectar collecting behaviour of bees, can even be seen from space. NASA, while observing this patterns, have noticed something strange- spring appears to arrive half-a-day early every year. This early arrival of spring disrupts the synchronised pattern of blooming plants and pollinators in search of nectar. Some species of bees hibernate in winter, and as climate change forces flowers to bloom early, bees wake up after the peak bloom and end up missing their meal.

And it won’t just be bees missing their meal. Bees are responsible for pollination and some studies suggest that one in every three bites of food we eat is as a result of bees’ pollination effort. So a drop in bee population will be a drop in food cultivation.

Global warming is the reason behind the decrease in the production of floral scents. Flowers use fragrance to attract pollinators, who pollinate and ensure that the plant species don’t perish. Along with visual signals, a bee relies on its olfactory sense when searching for food. If plants are unable to attract bees with their fragrance, bees may not be able to collect nectar, leading to dwindle in both of their population.

As the world grows warmer, it creates better conditions for a few parasites to thrive. Bees are vulnerable to these gut parasites that are capable of causing entire colonies to collapse. One particular species of this parasite called Nosema ceranae is a worldwide concern. Native to Asia, this parasite has spread to all parts of the world, thriving in the warming climate and infesting bees and killing their colonies.

Humans have directly and indirectly aided in habitat loss which is killing the bees. Deforestations, modern agricultural techniques, using dangerous fertilizers and pesticides, etc, is forcing bees to flee their existing homes while warming climate makes it difficult to find a new home.

A world without bees is not a world we would want to live in. It would be a world without apples, lemons, almonds, and a lot of other fruits and vegetables we take for granted. Flowering plants would also cease to exist. But fortunately for us, there are simple ways in which we can help the bees. Planting flowers in the garden, letting weeds grow, avoiding using synthesised fertilizers and pesticides, buying locally produced and organic honey, etc, are simple things you can do to keep the buzz alive.

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