Bees Say No to Climate Change
Ever since bees started to disappear en masse from their hives, beekeepers have understood that the environment is in a state of shock. Colony collapse disorder is, to this day, a mysterious phenomenon, but it is undeniably connected to the myriad of problems associated with climate change. Just over a month ago, the UK Parliament declared the issue of global climate change an “emergency”, stating that they would work closely with countries who are committed to fighting this huge problem in order to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Much of Australia has followed suit, with the ACT being the first state or territory to make the declaration themselves; from October, Canberra will effectively run on renewable energy.
But let’s get back to basics. While NASA defines global warming as the long-term warming of the planet that has been happening since the early part of the 20th century, especially since the 1970s, due to an increase in fossil fuel emissions, climate change is a much broader term. Climate change refers to a range of global weather and environmental phenomena created predominantly by the burning of fossil fuels which have added “heat-trapping” gases to the Earth’s atmosphere. Examples of climate change include increased temperature trends, sea levels rising, ice mass losses, shifts in the flowers and plants blooming, and extreme weather events.
For bees, this climate phenomenon threatens their very existence on a daily basis. And this isn’t just a big problem for them, it is also a big problem for us! I would not be alone in arguing that bees are the most vital species to exist on the planet. As bees pollinate 80% of flowering plants on Earth – with a single colony able to pollinate an astonishing 300 million flowers every day – bees are the major contributor to the natural floral landscape as we know it. In turn, this makes them very important for humans, as bees pollinate 70 of the top 100 food crops, with fruits such as avocados, apples and cherries being 90% dependent on bee pollination. These astonishing statistics evidence just how vital it is to protect bee colonies, as their pollinating powers make them a key component in both human and animal survival.
But climate change isn’t helping the world’s bees one bit. Writer for Conservation International Leah Duran broke it down, explaining just how these disturbing changes to the environment are affecting honeybees. Firstly, climate change is one of the causes of bee habitat loss, as bees are failing to migrate to cooler areas and establish new hives as the mercury continues to rise. Secondly, rising temperatures mean that flowers are often blooming sooner than bees expect; there is then a mismatch between when flowers produce pollen and when bees are ready to feed. Thirdly, honey bees are susceptible to parasites, such as Varroa mite and gut parasite Nosema ceranae, and research suggests that there was a lower prevalence of these parasites, and associated infection and disease, when temperatures were lower; but with rising temperatures, this risk is also more pronounced. These very real factors give us an even better reason to do all we can to fight the climate emergency across the globe. Save the bees, save the planet!