What would happen if the honeybees disappeared?

Nadeem Dar, Dr. Muneer Sofi

Disappearance of honeybees would cause a global food crisis
Honeybees are an astounding and highly beneficial insect species that quite literally underpins the sustenance of life as we know it on planet earth. Honeybees are the important components of agro-ecosystem as they provide free ecosystem services in the form of pollination which not only enhance the productivity of agricultural crops but also help in conservation of biological diversity through propagation of flora besides, providing honey and other bee products. Honeybees are the farmer’s little helpers. As pollinators, they play a crucial role in the world’s agricultural systems-allowing us to produce all kinds of food. The food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United Nations states that there are 100 crop species that provide 90% of food around the world and 71% of there are pollinated by bees. But they are threatened by habitat-loss and exposure to toxic pesticides. Normally, honeybees are known only for the fact that they produce delicious honey which has a great application in our daily lives. They are not just producers of delicious honey as they are the world’s most important pollinators of food crops. It is estimated that one third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees. So we can say that the honeybees are undoubtly the most important pollinators of food crops for humans and probably of food for entire nation. This is the main importance of honeybees. Darwin says the life of man would be made extremely difficult if the bees’ disappeared. Another great scientist Albert Einstein says that if the honeybees disappear from the surface of earth, man would have no more than four years to live. It is not pretty much probable that human beings would die within 4 years in the absence of bees, but the outcome may prove as sabotage to the human life or we can say food crisis may happen in the world because majority of our food crops depends on insect pollination majority done by honeybees. So undoubtedly it can also be said that a world without honeybees would mean a world without fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. So no more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man. The Economy of Jammu and Kashmir is Agro-horti based.More than 70% of the population is dependent directly and indirectly with this profession/sector. To meet the food requirement of ever multiplying population, the production of the crops has to be maximized by using High yielding varieties, fertilizers, new implements, seed and agro-climatic based technologies. The policy of doubling farmer’s income by 2022 shall be achieved by adoption of comprehensive crop production strategies. One of such strategy is the pollination management that is a very vital process of agriculture and horticulture crop production. Honey Bees incalculable economic and ecological benefits to humans, flowering plants and wildlife. Within apple orchards, they play a vital role in the pollination. Most of the apple cultivars are self-incompatible means they cannot be pollinated on cross pollination by their own and hence rely on managed bees and wild pollinators for proper pollination. By the pollination of bees, fruit set, fruit size, fruit shape and fruit quality increases. Without them apple yields might not be economically viable. This is evident that the income from agriculture by use of honeybees in crop pollination to exploit the yield potential of crops is 15-20 times greater than their value as honey and other hive products.

If the bees disappear from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live (Albert Einstein) If we die, we are taking you with us.

Cause Of Decline
Honeybees are dying off at record rates. The rapid shrinking of honeybee population is also a sign that planet is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction that could trigger a “catastrophic collapse of Earth’s ecosystems”. The cause of decline of these beneficial little creatures are:-
• Habitat loss – less forage and shelter for bees
• Excessive use of chemical pesticides and herbicides – harming bee health
• Climate change – disrupting bee behaviour.
• Increase in atmospheric electromagnetic radiations – interfere with bee’s ability to navigate.
• Industrial agriculture – exacerbating bee decline.
• Air pollution – decrease bees’ ability to forage.
• Parasites / pathogens.
Here are some adverse concerns if honeybees would eradicate from earth.
• We may lose all the plants that bees pollinate and all the animals that eat those plants, which means a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion because declining bee populations pose threat to global food security and nutrition (Global Food Crisis)
• Bees are vital to a healthy environment as they are fantastic symbol of nature. That they are in trouble is a sign that our natural environment is not in the good shape it should be.
• Honeybees are the only insects which produce the food eaten by humans. So, if honeybees disappear, result can be deteriorating.
A new study reported that the global honeybee count is plunging drastically, and if it goes unchecked, the ecosystem in which we live in will collapse. As ecosystem collapses, the survival of mankind will also come under threat, and finally, the earth will turn into a barren land. We need to engage in a longer study because if the bee population falls, it will affect forest and agriculture productivity, and pollination in the long run. Still, if the trend continues, worker bees in entire colonies could be “wiped out”. Also, we need to find a way to change our agricultural model, and switch to non-chemical pest control methods that work with nature. It is possible only by developing the concepts of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) among farmers.

(Dr. Nadeem Dar is a Senior Research Fellow and Dr Muneer Sofi an Assistant Professor at SKUAST-K Shalimar. Views are their own, darnadeem01@gmail.com)

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