Friday 28th May 2021
Although most staple crops like wheat, corn, rice are wind-pollinated, and others like tomatoes, beans and aubergines are self-pollinated, bees and other insects still pollinate many fruits, nuts and some vegetables including potatoes. Wikipedia has a table showing which are reliant on bees and by what factor. Even if plants don't require bees to pollinate them they will still benefit from their interaction by aiding the pollination or giving greater yields (as with cotton).
So claims that the world's food production would fail as a result of losing bees aren't quite right, but it would certainly suffer significantly, particularly fruit, nuts and squashes.
That said, it's not just pollination that bees are good for. They also provide biodiversity. By pollinating trees, wild flowers and other plants (especially those that produce berries and seeds) they help maintain a healthy ecosystem for the other inhabitants. Also it's not just humans that raid their hives. Quite a few other animals and bugs have a sweet tooth for honey, honeycomb and bee larvae.
What is threatening bees
It's thought pesticides and insecticides are the greatest threat to bees (and other insects) particularly neonicotinoids. These are thought to affect their navigation and reproduction abilities and also their immunity to diseases.
Loss of natural habitats also harm bee populations meaning they've less food to feed on. This can be a result of urban development, intensive farming or changing land use, both reducing hedgerows and wild flower meadows, the vast majority of which have been lost in the last 100 years.
Climate change could be said to be disrupting bees, both in terms of when they emerge from hives after winter and the availability of food from plants that are flowering at different times.
All this can leave them susceptible to mites and fungal diseases that can wipe out whole hives.
What can we do to help
We can all make small changes to help the bees and other insects.
Plant more flowers perhaps having a corner of your garden as a wild flower meadow.
Add bee hotels to your garden which gives solitary bees somewhere to build their nests.
Mining bees dig their nests in the ground and emerge during Spring sometime in April. They'll then make new burrows to the end of May. Avoid cutting your grass too often during this time as it will disrupt them.
Friends of the Earth: Bee Saver Kit (with donation)
Neonicotinoids: PAN UK, Wildlife Trust.