For a long time, people have been talking about a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder (CCD)” among the world’s bees. The phrase was coined in 2006 after a sharp rise in the number of disappearances of western honey bee colonies in North America. But, it wasn’t just limited to North America. Many countries in Europe also saw a rise in colony collapse with Ireland reporting that as many as 50% of their bee colonies disappearing.
The exact cause of CCD is not known. Most experts agree that there isn’t just one single cause of CCD, but that there are a number of contributing factors. A 2015 study of 170 cases of CCD found that climate change, pathogens, agricultural chemicals, decline in biodiversity, parasites and pathogens were all contributing factors.
Whatever the causes of CCD are, it is still an alarming phenomenon. Thankfully, scientists don’t believe that all bees are currently at risk of extinction. But, it’s still good to know what would happen if bees did go extinct. Below are 8 things that would happen:
No more honey
This one is obvious. Of course, if we didn’t have bees, we wouldn’t have honey. Think about it. No more honey for our tea. No honey for our biscuits or cornbread. Besides being delicious, honey also has many medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Many fruits and vegetables could not grow
A United Nations report states that, of the 100 crops that supply food to the majority of the world, 70 need bees to produce food. Nuts, berries, apples, avocados, melons, peaches and grapes all need bees for pollination. An estimated half of the food in grocery stores would disappear without bees. And, all you coffee lovers would have to say goodbye to your favorite drink.
No more dairy
Like the vegetables listed above, much of the food that dairy cows consume is pollinated by bees. Dairy cows require a complex diet and consume almost 100 pounds of food per day! Their main staple is alfalfa, which needs bees to pollinate. Dairy cows are also a big source of beef. So, without them, the cost of beef would skyrocket!
No more cotton
Cotton, a staple of the clothing industry, needs bees to pollinate. Clothing that contains cotton are t-shirts, denim, underwear, and socks. Other things like bed sheets, diapers (including disposable) and toilet paper are all made from cotton, too. While synthetic fabrics are still available, the resources to make them are not as plentiful as cotton, so clothing costs would rise dramatically.
Our diets would change
As mentioned above, many fruits and vegetables would disappear and beef would become too expensive for most people to afford. So, what would we eat? Since animals like pigs, goats and chickens eat a diet high in foods that do not need pollinated, these would become the main meat staples. Potatoes, tomatoes and carrots also don’t rely heavily on bees for pollination. Even so, the harvests for these vegetables would suffer a significant drop. Also, cooking oils like coconut, almond, canola and sesame oil would be gone.
Humans require a lot of different vitamins, minerals and nutrients to be healthy. Without a diverse diet, malnutrition would become a big problem. Crops that rely on bees for pollination provide a majority of the calcium, iron, fluoride, lipids and vitamins C, A and E. A lack of vitamin C could cause a scurvy epidemic and, even though we could survive without vitamin E, our immune systems would become weaker. So, humans’ health would suffer greatly without bees.
Humans would become pollinators
If all the bees died, humans would become responsible for taking up the slack. This is already happening in China, where a majority of the bees have already died. People take buckets full of pollen and “paint” the pollen on with a paintbrush. But, this could only be done with a few of the plants that require pollination because there simply aren’t enough humans to perform the task. Also, the need for hand pollination would contribute to the next item on the list….
Cost of food would skyrocket
Since much of our food would become incredibly scarce or require hand pollination, the cost of food would dramatically increase. In fact, this has already happened in Scotland. During the winter of 2012, Scotland lost almost one third of their honey bee colonies, which, in turn caused food prices to soar. Coffee already costs quite a bit. Imagine how much it would cost if it all had to be hand pollinated!