But is this doomsday event ever likely to occur? I mean we can have our cake, or in this case fruit, and eat it too right? Sadly, the unfortunate scenario can become a reality. Because A. mellifera L. is the premier biotic pollinator for agricultural crops world wide (Delaplane and Mayer, 2000), the effects of a disappearing honeybee is a reality. Figure 2-1 from Status of Pollinators shows a decline in managed honeybee colonies in the US. Since 1945, we have seen a loss of around 4 million bee colonies (USDA-NASS).
Crop pollination is also estimated to be valued at $16 billion dollars when only examining the United States’ agricultural industry. Other important crops that need pollinating are alfalfa and clover, which are important food sources for livestock feed. Other important products that honeybees produce are honey, which has a value of $150 million annually. It’s an understatement to say that the loss of honeybees will be catastrophic to the agricultural industry. (Mazer, 2007)
But what can be more severe than this? Well, the loss of plant diversity could be drastic as well. The mutualistic association between honeybees and plants is extremely important for the reproduction of angiosperms. We would see drastic reductions in plant diversity without essential supporting ecosystem services like pollination (Mazer 2007). From this many mutualistic relationships that animals have with flowering plants will be disrupted, and other species could suffer as well. The effects of this could undermine the agricultural system we have established, which would leave many individuals and organisms without food. Without the honeybee, we will experience a global catastrophe resulting in countless innocent lives being lost.
Knowing all this, what can we do? Well, individual action is a start, but global action is necessary to reverse these effects. You can help by starting your own beehive in your backyard. Honeybees are actually quite friendly, and will not bother you at all when they’re foraging. You can also stop using pesticides around your home, to protect insect visitors from neurotoxins. Talk to your neighbors as well, and work with them to reduce their pesticide use too. You can also begin writing to your government officials, asking them to consider a ban on certain pesticides in the state to protect honeybees. Having a garden that flowers throughout the seasons helps too, as it gives an area for honeybees to forage throughout the year. The sooner action is taken to protect honeybees, the better off we, and other organisms, will be.