The truth about the disappearing honeybees

Wildlife News



A MOVIE called Vanishing of the Bees opened in cinemas across the UK earlier this month. It's a feature-length documentary about the "mysterious collapse" of the honeybee population across the planet - a phenomenon that has recently attracted a great deal of attention and hand-wringing.

The idea that bees are disappearing for reasons unknown has embedded itself in the public consciousness. It is also a great story that taps into the anxieties of our age. But is it true? We think not, at least not yet.

First, the basics. Pollination by bees and other animals - flies, butterflies, birds and bats - is necessary for the production of fruits and seeds in many wild and cultivated plants. More than 80 per cent of the planet's 250,000 species of flowering plants are pollinated by animals.

Agriculture is a large-scale beneficiary of these pollination services, so claims that pollinators are in decline have triggered alarm that our food supply could be in jeopardy, that we may be on the verge of a global "pollination crisis".

Claims of such a crisis rest on three main tenets: that bees are responsible for the production of a large fraction of our food; that pollinators are declining worldwide; and that pollinator decline threatens agricultural yield. Numerous scientific papers, many media stories and even a European Parliament resolution in 2008 present each of these as an uncontested truth. But are they?


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