The Disappearance of Honey Bees

Bee cartoon

Cartoon by Laura Schmaeler

By Bree Barnes

When people think of honeybees, a bee sting or the taste of honey might come to mind. However, most people do not realize how crucial honeybees are to our ecosystem.

Although not many people have heard about the epidemic disappearance of honeybees, some Mayfield students have been noticing some changes in the environment.

“Every time I go outside there is always a bee on the floor crawling because it can’t fly and then I’ll come back later and it will be dead; it makes me feel sad,” said Nina Csombor ’16.

While most people assume the only function of bees is to produce honey; in reality, the primary function of bees is to pollinate plants. According to Biology teacher Theresa Peters, without bees, our production of fruits, vegetables, and even grain for flour, would either decrease in availability or cease to exist all together.

National Geographic recently reported that beekeepers have been noticing their bee colonies diminishing. For decades, it was not out of the ordinary for beekeepers to notice the number of bees in their colonies decrease, but the recent decline of bees is well beyond the norm and has become a national problem. The New York Times confirmed that scientists now refer to the disappearance of bees as “colony collapse disorder.”

“I remember distinctly keeping bees, and that there were mass die-offs from time to time,” said English teacher Chris Berg, a former beekeeper. “Though they were never catastrophic, I was always concerned.”

Berg also noted that sometimes bees would contract diseases that would wipe out the entire colony. But scientists have found that the recent disappearance of bees has not been the result of disease.

“The disappearance of bees would alter the growth of many flowers and plants, and would have an overall negative affect on our ecosystem,” said Avra Juliani, a junior. Although not all plants rely on the pollination of bees, the majority of them do.

Scientists are blaming the colony collapse on different environmental problems. Some researchers believe that the disappearance of bees is due to climate change — bees are dying before they return to their hives due to cold or exhaustion. Other scientists believe that pesticides are to blame for the decline in the bee population. They argue that bees are not able to return to their hives because the chemicals in pesticides are damaging their brains.

Peters believes that urbanization could be another cause of the colony collapse. When forests and fields are cut down to make way for new houses or cities, it destroys much of the bees’ habitats, eventually leading to the colony’s death.

Although nothing can replace the integral role of bees in food and plant production, there are a few solutions.

“Bees are not the only animals that can pollinate plants,” said Peters. “Hummingbirds, butterflies, bats, and a few other animals can also pollinate plants, but bees are the primary pollinators.”

“It could be possible for humans to pollinate plants,” said Mrs. Melby, who teaches Introductory to Experimental Science and biology, “but it would be very expensive and would require a tremendous amount of time.”

Although there is no way now that anyone can directly stop the colony collapse, Peters suggests that people in the United States could learn to alter their diets so that they do not heavily rely on foods that require bee pollination.