There are many different threats, both human and natural, that are detrimental to bee populations. These were briefly mentioned in a previous post, but this post will go into more detail about the various threats and what can be done to reduce or stop them.
- Urbanisation – Urban developments and the growth of cities results in a decrease in bee populations due to the destruction of natural environments. To combat this threat, a variety of flowering plant species that are favoured by bees should be planted in urban and suburban environments to increase bee populations in these areas. Urban beekeeping can also tackle this threat as it reintroduces bee populations to urban environments.
- Negative attitudes – Some people fear bees and view them as a threat to their safety. Due to this, wild beehives are destroyed and bees are unnecessarily killed. Bees shouldn’t be feared, and unlike wasps, they do not actively seek out humans to sting. Bees only sting, and rarely, when they feel their hive is being threatened. Bees should be celebrated and cared for as they have a great role in maintaining our natural environment. Educate others about the importance of bees and put down the bug spray. If you’re really worried about a beehive in your backyard, call up a bee removal service.
- Agricultural industry – The agricultural industry has a massive impact on bees. It creates crop monocultures where only one or two species of plants are planted on one farm. Most of the time these plants aren’t even suitable for bees to thrive off, and the ones that are, like almonds, put bees in a stressful position as they have to be shipped in and shipped out for pollination. To reduce the threat of monocultures, farms need to start planting cover crops again. Cover crops, such as clover, alfalfa and grasses, are planted in-between crops to manage a number of things including soil erosion, soil quality and soil fertility. They are also planted to maintain diversity and wildlife, as they add one more dimension to plant diversity in farms which bees can feed from.
- Pesticides – Harmful pesticides are widely used in the agricultural industry. They are a threat to bees because plants absorb the pesticides that are applied to them. Contact pesticides are directly sprayed onto the plant, whereas systemic pesticides are applied to the soil or onto seeds and move up the plants stem, leaves, nectar and pollen. A bee can experience harmful affects or even die if it crawls over the infected surface of a plant or ingests its pollen and nectar. One of the worst is the neonicotinoid insecticide, which can result in disorientation or death in bees. To combat this threat, you should avoid all pesticides when gardening at home and purchase organic, pesticide free fruit and vegetables to support the ecological and pesticide-free agricultural industry. Signing petitions like this one, to ban the use of pesticides, is also beneficial to stop this threat.
- Parasites – The Varroa destructor mite is one of the worst parasites to affect bees. They are an external parasite that attaches itself to the back of bees and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph, the blood-like fluid in the bees open circulatory system. A significant infestation of the mite will lead to the collapse of a bee colony as most bee species are defenceless to the mite. Originally, the mite came from Central-Asia, but it has spread globally to parts of Europe and the Americas possibly because of relaxed border control regulations. Thankfully the mite has yet to infect Australian bees, but we still need to maintain tough border control regulations to ensure that our bees stay healthy and mite free.
- Diseases – Diseases such as Foul Brood and Nosema are harmful to bee populations. Foul Brood is caused by a spore-forming larvae, where young larvae ingest the spores from their food. The spores feed and grow off the larvae and eventually kill them. Nosema is a small fungus that infects bees and can result in reduced honey yield, dwindling populations and death. Unlike the case with the Varroa mite, these diseases can be easily treated with good management and proper medication. However, in some cases, entire hives must be destroyed.