“If bees disappeared from the face of the earth, man would only have four years of life left". This sentence attributed, albeit with some questions, to Albert Einstein says a lot about the strategic importance of bees. These small insects are essential for maintaining the environmental balance and for themselvesto watch biodiversity. In recent years, however, bees, and all pollinating insects in general, are experiencing an irrepressible death, which is foreshadowed as a consequence of a deep global ecological crisis.
The disappearance of bees is in fact due to a series of converging factors ranging from the indiscriminate use of pesticides to the ongoing climate change.
Bees: why they are important for biodiversity
Bees play a leading role in maintaining biodiversity. Through their pollination activity they guarantee the survival and the presence of different plant species. Much of the fruit and vegetables we regularly consume derives from their tireless work. But not only. Recent scientific studies have shown that honey bees contribute to speeding up the restoration of vegetation following disasters that have caused fires, desertification and impoverishment of the land, limiting and, in some cases, averting the effects of natural disasters such as erosion, landslides and floods.
Neonicotinoids and bee deaths
Among the number one suspects of the progressive disappearance of bees are the neonicotinoids, pesticides and insecticides used in agriculture for the tanning of corn seeds and other crops. These substances are designed to act on the nervous system of pests but apparently the effect does not exclude pollinators. In April 2018, the European Union approved the permanent ban on three neonicotinoid insecticides harmful to bees: theimidacloprid, the clothianidin and the thiamethoxam. The three substances were previously subject to restrictions in Europe, because they were considered dangerous for both domestic and wild bees.
This was reiterated by EFSA itself, the European Food Safety Authority, in February 2018 after a careful review of the scientific literature on the subject, launched in 2015. Despite the positions taken at European level, the pesticides alarm did not has ceased. As evidenced by Greenpeace in the text of your petition "Let's save the bees", in the Old Continent the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam is still allowed in permanent greenhouses as is the use of other neonicotinoids, including acetamiprid, thiacloprid and sulfoxaflor, all potentially dangerous for bees and other pollinating insects.
The role of climate change
After pesticides, the changing climate represents one of the greatest dangers for the survival of bees and other pollinators. A first sign of the correlation between climate change and bee deaths comes from Italian beekeepers. As explained by Coldiretti in a note, 2017 was a bad year for Italian honey production due to "a prolonged drought, accompanied by sudden temperature drops and other extreme weather events that seem to have the distinctive feature of an increasingly evident climate change". The result? Honey production fell by as much as 80%. In fact, due to the drought, the flowers no longer secrete nectar and pollen and the bees not only fail to produce honey but also risk not carrying out their fundamental activity of pollination of agricultural crops.
Due to the changing climate, bees see their natural habitats change, impoverish or, in the worst case, disappear, with disastrous consequences for their survival.
What can we do for the bees
To the negative effects of pesticides and climate change are added further factors triggering the widespread death of pollinating insects. Among these, we remember the incorrect agricultural practices, diseases and the spread of parasites, such as Varroa Destructor, mite that greatly weakens the immune system of bees. We are facing an alarming situation which requires a swift and effective strategy. The need to intervene on the use of pesticides is evident, as is the urgency of tackle the factors that are accelerating climate change. But each of us can contribute to the protection of bees. Like? For example, by opting for products from organic farming, avoiding the use of herbicides, favoring the development ofurban beekeeping or more simply by growing flowers appreciated by bees on our domestic balconies.