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What will the world be like without bees?

Bees have lived on Earth for 100 million years. This animal is so familiar that almost everyone thinks they will live forever. However, more and more scientists raise alarms about the recession, even the endangered species, of bees and, if so, it will be a disaster for humanity. What would our planet be like without bees? Today we will hear from French researchers Yves Le Conte and Lionel Garnery, answer RFI French at the beginning of April 2018. (First published on June 27, 2018)

Bees are seen on a beehive frame with honeycomb filled with honey at beekeeper Leonid Baranenko’s bee-garden in the village of Mikhaylovka, Belarus June 24, 2017. Picture taken June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

Yves Le Conte is currently the research director of the INRA National Institute of Agricultural Research, the Avignon branch and also the director of the Bee and Environment Research Unit, the author of a book on bee protection. published in France. Lionel Garnery is a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research CNRS, a professor at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, and a geneticist of the black bee.

Bees are highly socially organized insects like ants and termites. They live in colonies, in nature or in artificial hives. Each herd has a queen bee, worker bee, young bee… and has a strict and clear assignment. Bees are raised by humans to exploit products such as honey, beeswax, royal jelly,…

But bees also play an important role in ecosystems because they are involved in pollination of plants, like other insects, if not the most important.

Yet, over the past few years, the fate of bees has caused more and more concern, with mortality rates ranging from 30 to 35%, even up to 50% in winter. To the extent that scientists are concerned about the existence of this insect.

So what are the reasons that the bees are in danger of extinction? Researcher Yves Le Conte explains:

“The most important reason is the changes in the environment around the bees. The agriculture is increasingly intensive, causing the space of the bees to be narrowed. Next, there is too much use.” pesticides, even though beekeepers are fighting back, we now realize that a new generation of pesticides is causing serious harm to the survival of bees, like neonicotinoide. “These substances do not kill immediately, but slowly bees. Now, politicians and associations must work hard to minimize the use of pesticides in agriculture.”

Another factor that threatens bees is parasites, like the Varroa destructor, says Le Conte:

“Varroa destructor is a type of acari, like a small crab that sucks blood. In a colony of bees can have thousands of varroa destructors, they proliferate and eventually destroy the colony. Now we can. use chemicals to fight varroa, or synthetic chemicals, or more organic compounds (bio), but if they don’t treat bees, they will die too. “But in the long run, how can we select bees that can resist parasites like varroa”.

But according to researcher Lionel Garnery, the risk of extinction of bees is due to a combination of many factors:

“We have talked about the two most important causes, but if they are separated, they cannot explain the consumption of bees. Rather, it is due to the combination of many factors. First. Of course, there are parasites like varroa, but actually varroa is only an intermediate host carrying the virus, which means there are many infectious factors that threaten bees.

The cause is also due to human impact on large-scale plants, arable land is no longer diverse in the environment, ie no longer diverse in pollen, resulting in a source of protein, a source of vitamins for bees. reduced, making them no longer able to resist other harmful factors.

Thus, it is the synthesis of all the factors that cause the bees to consume so much. Climate change is also one of those factors. This factor makes the bees confused, so do beekeepers, because they have to change their farming practices. As for me, I advocate a more natural farming method, that is, how the colonies gradually adapt themselves to these factors, by allowing the natural selection process to have more impact. “

To combat parasites, we can also select bees called “hygiene bees”, according to researcher Le Conte:

“Hygienic” bees that protect themselves against varroa, a parasitic acari, remain the number one threat for bees. “Sanitary” bees are “female workers” capable of detecting holes. the hives are being attached to the varroa, and then they are hooked out of the hives, to prevent the varroa from damaging the bees. At the National Institute of Agricultural Research we study a lot about that characteristic of the bees. ” We would like to recommend to beekeepers a simple method to help them check whether the hives are “sanitary” and to enhance the hives’ anti-varroa resistance.

While bees live very long lives, which is in principle difficult to eradicate, according to researcher Garnery, the main problem lies in human impact:

“The problem is the transformation of human society, the impact of human beings on biodiversity. Even if there is climate change, if we leave nature alone, then there will be the bees have survived many glaciers in Europe The problem is that bees have a lot of economic benefit, they should be dominated by humans if they interfere with their own resistance Of course bees, the danger of their extinction will be greater “.

As for researcher Le Conte, he warns that some people are contemplating ways to replace bee roles, as if they think the insect’s destruction is inevitable:

“I have learned that, especially in the United States, some researchers plan to use drones with bees, a type of” robotic bees “that can later be used as replacements for It sounds interesting, but technologically, this is an utopian project and it also shows that people are too complacent.

After all, we need and will still need bees. There are fruit species that require bees for pollination. If the bees die, we will have many problems with cultivation, about producing food for us.

On the other hand, one thing no one has mentioned is that in nature there are many species of living plants that absolutely need bees in pollination. If we exclude a species of bee that specializes in pollinating a certain plant, that plant will die.

According to researcher Le Conte, the consequences of bees’ destruction are not only very food-heavy, but also a symbol of the degradation of a serious field:

“I don’t think we’re going to starve to death because there are a lot of fruit trees that don’t need insects to pollinate, only need the wind, but certainly if there are no bees, we’ll lose some. vegetables and this will obviously cause many problems for mankind.

This is a warning signal that we have to stop the danger because if humans can destroy those things again, the world is doomed. It is necessary to see the existence of bees as a threshold that should not be overcome, but on the contrary, must find all ways to protect them. Protecting bees means protecting the environment around us because we’re also eating things that have pesticides, breathing in air contaminated with pesticides. We have to stop that risk.”

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