A Bee is a flying insect as many of us are aware. They do an important job in pollination and producing honey. There are over 16,000 species in bee family. Most popular and common ones are the honey bee and the Bumble bee. Bees are found in almost everywhere except in Antarctica. Bees feed on nectar and pollen, causing pollination.

Life Cycle of a Honey Bee

There are 4 main stages in a life cycle of a honey bee. They are 1. Egg 2. Larvae 3. Pupa 4. Adult. Unlike a bumble bee colony or a paper wasp colony, the life of a honey bee colony is perennial. The three types of honey bees in a hive are: queens (egg-producers), worker bees (non-reproducing females), and drones (males whose main duty is to find and mate with a queen). Unlike the worker bees the drones do not sting. Honey bee larvae hatch from eggs in three to four days. They are then fed by worker bees and develop through several stages in the cells. Cells are capped by worker bees when the larva pupates. Queens and drones are larger than workers, so require larger cells to develop. A colony may typically consist of tens of thousands of individuals.

By Waugsberg – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2445861

Development from egg to emerging bee varies among queens, workers, and drones. It takes about 15-16 days for a queens to emerge from their cells, workers in 21 days, and drones in 24 days. Only one queen is usually present in a hive. New virgin queens develop in enlarged cells. She is taken care by the worker bees and during the development of new queen she is fed Royal Jelly. When the existing queen ages or dies or the colony becomes very large. When the hive is too large, the old queen will take half the colony with her in a swarm. This occurs a few days prior to the new queen emerging. If several queens emerge they will begin piping (a high buzzing noise) signaling their location for the other virgin queens to come fight. Once one has eliminated the others, she will go around the hive chewing the sides of any other queen cells and stinging and killing the pupae. The queen takes one or several nuptial flights to mate with drones from other colonies, which die after mating. After mating the queen begins laying eggs.

A fertile queen is able to lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. Each unfertilized egg contains a unique combination of 50% of the queen’s genes and develops into a drone. The fertilized eggs develop into either workers or virgin queens (if fed exclusively royal jelly).

What is Pollination?

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, later enabling fertilisation and the production of seeds, most often by an animal or by wind.

Importance of Pollination

Once a pollen is landed on the stigma of the flower it will germinate and a pollen tube is generated towards the ovule and fertilizes. This is the general idea of being fertilized by pollination. To produce a fruit the flower must be fertilized and without pollination fertilizing does not occur.

Bees and Pollination

When bees feed on several flowers these pollen from one flower gets attached to the bees due to their adhesive surface. When the bee flies to another flower to feed on these pollen are transferred to that flower along with the bee. Pollination can happen by wind also. But the pollination through bees in more effective than the pollination through wind. About 80% of pollination in many crops are done by bees. A single bee colony is capable of pollinating 300 million flowers within a day. That is how effective they are. Fruits and vegetables are mainly pollinated by bees while grains are pollinated by wind mostly, Also 70 out of top 100 human food crops are pollinated by bees. The economic value of the crops pollinated by bees within the US is about $15 billion annually.

Honey bee’s Fate

The common honey bee is not an endangered species although 8 species in the bee family are added to the endangered list in 2016. The common honey bee is not on the endangered list yet many believe that they might go extinct within next few years. And there are enough evidence to support that statement. There have been various diseases have recognized among the bees along with abnormal habits within the hives.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. The facts related to this phenomenon was reported as early as 1869. But in 2006 a commercial bee keeper had reported an unusual amount of loses in his hives. Further investigations suggested that there have been such changes in their behavior since the 20th century recognized as a pattern. By 2007 there had been a large decline in bee hives as big as 50% – 90%. The US Department of Agriculture had conducted a survey and a date analysis and found out that there might be various causes for CCD. They included chemical contamination of colony food stores or beeswax; poisoning from pesticides, including nicotine-based insecticides known as neonicotinoids (the use of which has been restricted in some countries); possible lack of genetic diversity in colonies; and infection of colonies by pathogens or parasites, including known honeybee parasites such as the single-celled microsporidians (parasitic fungus) Nosema ceranae and N. apis and the invasive varroa mite (Varroa destructor).

Pollinator Decline

Pollinator decline is the reduction in abundance of insect and other animal pollinators in many ecosystems worldwide that began being recorded at the end of the 20th century. Although the existence of pollinator decline can be difficult to determine, a number of possible reasons for the theoretical concept have been proposed, such as exposure to pathogens, parasites, and pesticides; habitat destruction; climate change; market forces; intra- and interspecific competition with native and invasive species; and genetic alterations. One study found that air pollution, such as from cars, has been inhibiting the ability of pollinators such as bees and butterflies to find the fragrances of flowers. Pollutants such as ozone, hydroxyl, and nitrate radicals bond quickly with volatile scent molecules of flowers, which consequently travel shorter distances intact. Pollinators must thus travel longer distances to find flowers. Pollinators may also face an increased risk of extinction because of global warming due to alterations in the seasonal behaviour of species. Climate change can cause bees to emerge at times in the year when flowering plants were not available.

Why We Need to Reconsider?

an estimated 87.5% of the world’s flowering plant species are animal-pollinated, and 60% of crop plant species use animal pollinators. This includes the majority of fruits, many vegetables, and also fodder. According to the USDA 80% of insect crop pollination in the US is due to honey bees.

The expected direct reduction in total agricultural production in the US in the absence of animal pollination is expected to be 3 to 8 %. According to a study conducted in 2016 the most important effect of pollinator decline for humans would be the drop in income from high-value cash crops, and would impact the agricultural sector the most. A 2000 study about the economic effects of the honey bee on US food crops calculated that it helped to produce US$14.6 billion in monetary value. In 2009 another study calculated the worldwide value of the 100 crops that need pollinators at €153 billion (not including production costs). Despite the dire predictions, the theorized decline in pollinators has had no effect on food production, with yields of both animal-pollinated and non-animal-pollinated crops increasing at the same rate, over the period of supposed pollinator decline.

Pesticides vary in their effects on bees. Contact pesticides are usually sprayed on plants and can kill bees when they crawl over sprayed surfaces of plants or other areas around it. Systemic pesticides, on the other hand, are usually incorporated into the soil or onto seeds and move up into the stem, leaves, nectar, and pollen of plants.

Of contact pesticides, dust and dry powder pesticides tend to be more hazardous to bees than solutions or emulsifiable concentrates. When a bee comes in contact with pesticides while foraging, the bee may die immediately without returning to the hive. In this case, the queen bee, brood, and nurse bees are not contaminated and the colony survives. Alternatively, the bee may come into contact with an insecticide and transport it back to the colony in contaminated pollen or nectar or on its body, potentially causing widespread colony death.

Pesticides are linked to Colony Collapse Disorder and are now considered a main cause, and the toxic effects of Neonicotinoids on bees are confirmed. Currently, many studies are being conducted to further understand the toxic effects of pesticides on bees.

It is a much more serious problem if there will be an extinction of bees. All the important facts I have mentioned above will be lost and who knows how many new problems will create after the bees are gone. That is why we need to reconsider…..