How valuable are bees? In the UK, about £1.8bn a year, according to new research on the cost of hand-pollinating the many crops bees service for free. If that sounds a far-fetched scenario, consider two facts.
First, bees are in severe decline. Half the UK’s honey bees kept in managed hives have gone, wild honey bees are close to extinction and solitary bees are declining in more than half the place they have been studied.
Second, hand-pollination is already necessary in some places, such as pear orchards in China, and bees are routinely trucked around the US to compensate for the loss of their wild cousins.
The new figure comes from scientists at the Reading University and was released by Friends of the Earth to launch their new campaign, Bee Cause. Paul de Zylva, FoE nature campaigner, said: “Unless we halt the decline in British bees our farmers will have to rely on hand-pollination, sending food prices rocketing.”
So what’s the problem?
OTTAWA – FOLLOWING a massive bee die-off in parts of the world, two Canadian universities on Wednesday launched an effort to breed honey bees resistant to pests and diseases.
Led by the universities of Guelph and Manitoba, the programme will try to breed a better bee through genetic selection.
It will also screen new products for pest and disease control, and try to come up with new ways of managing pollination colonies that face risks that include parasites, bacterial infections and pesticides resulting from the impact of human activities on the environment.
Ottawa is providing US$244,000 (S$300,748) to the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association to participate in the project. The goal is to ‘help beekeepers secure sustainable honey harvests and provide essential pollination services to the fruit and vegetable industry’, the government said in a statement.
Honey bee colony declines in recent years have reached 10 to 30 per cent in Europe, 30 per cent in the United States, and up to 85 per cent in Middle East, according to a United Nations report on the issue released earlier this year.
Honey bees are critical to global agriculture. They pollinate more than 100 different crops, representing up to US$83 billion in crop value world wide each year and roughly one-third of the human diet. — AFP