The Death of Bees
Mithru Naidu Tristan Whenham
To most people, bees are just pests that sting people. A common pest. Actually, though, bees play a big role in the lives of humans. Let me put it this way for you. An average of ⅓ meals that YOU eat every day are made possible by bees. How do you ask? Well, for a plant to make a baby plant, it needs a material called pollen that the male part of the plant makes to allow the new plant to be created. Unfortunately, plants don’t have either mouths or hands to take that pollen. Here, bees play a huge role.
Bees are the most prolific pollinator in the world! Pollinators carry pollen between plants. There are many pollinators in the world, including wind, water, butterflies, and of course, bees. Without pollinators, the world's economy would crash, many fruits and veggies will have much higher demand, raising their prices, and it's possible that a huge global wave of hunger might sweep the world, leaving tens of millions dead. Luckilly, it won't be that bad practically as there are some plants that aren't dependant on animals to pollinate them. Some crops are wind or water pollinated. Still, we will be in big trouble. In fact, about 80% of all pollination is done by bees. That is remarkable. However lately, bees have been facing a new threat.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was first found in 2006 when bee farmers were finding that an excessive amount of bees were disappearing or worse, dying. This is when the hunt was on. In the U.S., the decline of bees started from 5 million hives in 1988 to (roughly) 2.68 million today. CCD is a major concern for most bee farmers because that is how they make honey to survive. This is also a major concern to the ecosystem. If all the bees die out, the process of pollination will stop abruptly and nature will have to depend on other bugs and beetles to survive. Most vegetables that get pollinated by insects will start to slowly decline and not only the bees will die, other bugs will also die. Take dung beetles for example. Dung beetles survive because of the feces of other animals. If grass dies out, then herbivores will die and the dung beetles won't have any dung to use. Ant mega colonies will take over the world as ants eat other ants but even the ant era will come to an end at one point. So many animals depend on bees. If CCD was happening to, let’s say, termites, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. If bees go extinct, Earth will become a quiet and desolate place a few decades afterwards.
As you should now have realized, bees are vital to the survival of the world. Humans need food. Food needs bees. Therefore, humans need bees. We need to take action now. If not now, then never. If we are not going to do it for the ecosystem or for nature, we should at least do it for the survival of humankind.
First of all, we came up with an idea. Using a democratic voting process, we started with 10 ideas, including ant megacolonies, trade, dark matter, colony collapse disorder and bees, and trade, we narrowed it down to two - Colony Collapse Disorder and bees, and ant megacolonies. After that, we each got 5 “points”, which you could split between the ideas in any way you wanted. Adding up the total votes, we got two sums, each representing the amount of support for an idea. We rolled a random number from 1 to 10, and if it was between 1 and 6, it would be bees, and 7 to 10 would be ants. Out of 5 rounds, bees narrowly won.
To get our research data, we started by looking at the topic, and analyzed what we should focus on. We then proceeded to gather lots of information from various sites. At this point we didn't verify the information, as that would come later. Speaking of later, after we had finished gathering raw data, we went through them indivisually and verified it, starting from the most relevant, all the way to the least.
After that, we started work on the more visual aspect of the project. We added the groundwork for our Google Slides, Mithru started work on the animation, Tristan started work on the Google Sheets, and all in all we started working on the project in ways others could see. This took up the bulk of the project time.
Finally, we went through everything, refined it, edited it, refined it again, edited it again, and refined it once more. This helped make it feel more scientific and more "proper". Finally, we added an extra layer of trim, and we were finally done
Bees are interconnected in the animal world, so if bees go extinct, it would resonate throughout the world, unlike an animal like the flea. They are important, but wouldn't lead to the collapse of the world if they went extinct!
Bees are the most prolific pollinators - it is estimated that over 80% of crops are pollinated by them!
In fact, bees contribute to about 265 BILLION dollars worldwide! That's more than Jeff Bezos!
Currently, there are 3 major possibilities to the cause of CCD; Possibility A: Genetics, Possibility B: Parasites, Possibility C: Chemicals.
Genetic diversity is key for the survival of bees. If the same genes are distributed through all queen bees, all the worker bees will have the same genes. If a predator takes advantage of this and figures out the weakness, that same predator can take out A LOT of hives in its lifespan.
Parasites are a serious threat to bees, and sound like they come straight out of a horror movie, including mites like Varroa Destructor, which burrow into the brood cell of a honey bee. Before the hive bees cover the cell with wax or the larva pupates, the mother mite will lay its eggs on the larva of the bee. When the bee hatches, the mother mite and its new babies feed on the defenceless, developing bee. At this point the bee isn’t killed, just weakened. It still has enough energy to chew through the wax capping. This releases the newly born mites and their mother to spread around the hive. They restart the cycle over a series of ten days and in a few months, this can lead to the collapse of the entire colony!
Recently, if you are a farmer, you would’ve heard of neonicotinoids. These are a series of pesticides which have been found to be harmful not only to pests such as aphids, but to bees and other awesome critters too. The main problem with neonicotinoids [NEE-OH-NIK-UH-TI-NOYDZ] when it comes to bees is that they act as a general kill spray. They are essentially just poison in spray form. That helps fight pests such as aphids, but also helpful critters such as bees.
In the U.S., the decline of bees started from 5 million hives in 1988 to (roughly) 2.68 million today, due to Colony Collapse Disorder, though it was only officially documented in the late 2000s
|YEAR||Bee Colonies in Canada (Thousands)||Beekeepers in Canada (Thousands)||Bee Colonies per Beekeeper in Canada|
Ways for YOU to help the bees stay alive
- Fight Climate Change! This one is simple. It has been scientifically proven that climate change is bad for bees. Not only do bees suffer from habitat loss, caused by climate change, but rising temperatures can lead to a flower “mismatch”, making them less resistant to disease and less likely to reproduce. In addition, environmental conditions resulting in increased stress may increase infections. Therefore, anything that helps stop climate change is good for bees too! You can turn off lights when you leave the room, use more energy-efficient programs, and, if you really want to put in the extra mile, go completely off the grid with a solar array.
- Don’t use insecticides or herbicides on your garden! They are a major part of why bees are in trouble. Before using a “garden maintenance product”, make sure to read the fine print to see if it is bee-friendly.
- Nature, nature, nature! Bees need flowers to survive. Bees also love having places to live. You can start a minigarden for your bee pals, or make a bee nest for the bees to live in. These will help bee reproduction and boost the survival rate up, up, and up some more. No matter how you phrase it, this is a YAY for bees everywhere. In addition, you can go the extra step and make your yard, front or back, more natural. This will help bees even more!
- Support local organizations. If you like bees, but don’t have the time to help them yourself, these “bee charities” are a great option! They help bees in numerous amounts of ways such as helping the populations over all, raising awareness and many more. Here are 3 bee charities you can donate to:
5. Eat bee-dependant meals, such as honey, and some fruits. Supply and demand is a basic law of economics. When supply goes up, demand goes down, and when demand goes up, supply goes down. Use this to your advantage by eating bee-related products. The makers will see this demand, and increase their bee operations causing CCD to get suppressed by the population.
Conservation.org, The buzz on climate change: It’s bad for bees, August 2017: https://www.conservation.org/blog/the-buzz-on-climate-change-its-bad-for-bees
Wikipedia, Colony Collapse Disorder: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder
Earth Day, Bees are dying, but there is one thing we can do, July 2019: https://www.earthday.org/bees-are-dying-and-its-complicated-but-there-is-one-thing-we-can-do/
QZ, Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought, July 2013: https://qz.com/107970/scientists-discover-whats-killing-the-bees-and-its-worse-than-you-thought/
Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell, The Death Of Bees Explained - Parasites, poison, and humans, July 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqA42M4RtxE
It’s Okay to be Smart, Why Are The Bees Dying?, June 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKQNx0av7eY
TED-Ed, The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce, March 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz1Cz8ko8iY
To my parents, every teacher in Westmount, and every person in the world who has helped me on my learning journey, thank you.
Mithru: I dedicate this project to my good partner, Tristan, My parents, for pushing me to do this and my uncle for helping me along the way.