The Bees May Be About To Sting

Not many of us care about bees. I certainly didn’t, until recently. I was negligent and thus, unaware of how important they are for us. Bees are the real architect of a lot of the food that we eat. Their absence from the planet would perhaps be felt more strongly than the absence of any other species would ever feel. The reason for that is simple. Bees are responsible for pollinating the crops we take a lot of our food from. They make life easier for us. Much easier. No bees would mean a severe crisis and we have enough on our plates already. Therefore, as selfish as it sounds, we must save the bees, if not for them, then for us.

The past few years have seen a consistent decline in the population of bees worldwide. The matter of concern, right now, is to find out exactly what it is which is affecting their survival. There has not been a clear answer yet, but it is assumed to be a combination of several factors, such as the spread of harmful pests, insecticides and also air pollution (it cuts down the ability of the bees to detect scent from a long distance).

The recent awareness has also made us realise how dependent we are on nature despite our vast technological advancements. The executive director of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) echoed this view when he said, “Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to 7 billion people.” The Broccolis, mustards, cabbages, peppers, cucumbers, watermelons and many other fruits and vegetables that we cherish would not be available without the bees. Or they might be, through artificial pollination of crops but that would cost a hefty amount of money annually which would of course be undesirable.

An important step to preserve the wildlife habitat for flowers and bees would be to make sure that roadside grass verges are not cut too often, as it seems to be the case today. These grass verges support hundreds of species of flowering plants; a vital source for the bees. Recent campaigns have called for them to be cut no more than twice a year and only when it seriously obstructs with the road view for drivers, thereby promoting the habitat for the bees. Besides, encouraging farmers to grow pollinator friendly environment such as having flowering plants next to crop producing fields should also help immensely.

A lot hangs on the Rio Earth Summit next year in Brazil. The issue demands urgent attention; the sting of the bees is bearable now, but I fear it may not be, once they are gone.


Maitreya Thakur