Flight of the Bumblebee

The Earth is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction event – the most widespread and rapid global biodiversity crisis since the extinction of the dinosaurs. A massive decline in bumblebees is now underway resulting from pesticides, parasites, disease, poor weather due to climate change, and other human involvement. A new study has revealed that the number of bumblebees is currently decreasing at rates consistent with a mass extinction event. At this rate, bumblebees are on course to become extinct in only a few decades.  

Bumblebees are vital pollinators in the natural environment and their decline poses a grave risk to the ability of humans and animals to be fed. Out of the 100 crop species that provide humans with 90% of our food, 35% of these crops are pollinated by birds, bees and bats. Without bees, humans wouldn’t be able to eat foods like apples, avocadoes, most leafy greens and many others. There are crops like rice and wheat which do not require insect pollination, but our diet would be severely affected, as people can’t survive by eating bread and rice all their life! The knock-on effect of the reduction in food production is the effect on animals. Cattle used for milk rely on a diet of alfalfa and lupins, both of which rely on insect pollination by bees. A fall in food supply for cattle will mean that meat and milk production will greatly reduce and again seriously affect the diets of humans. 

The effects of bees becoming extinct will be felt harshly in many areas. Effects will be observed not only in the environment but also in industry and the daily life of people. Plants used to produce biofuels will not be pollinated as frequently, and the population may end up reliant on fossil fuels or other non-renewable sources of energy, pressuring the environment.  

The production of clothing made from natural fibres will reduce due to their being less cotton plants growing and less animals to harvest the wool from. There will be significantly less choice in clothing materials which may have to be chemical based, again putting pressure on the environment. 

Not only that, but since most plants will suffer a reduction in growth, grasslands will become barren and large-scale desertification is likely to occur. Freshwater will start drying up as there will be less trees for water retention. 

The extinction of bees will be cataclysmic for our current way of life. 


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Olivia Johnson

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September 2021
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