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?