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Can we Survive a World Without Bees? Part 2

Can Humanity Survive Without Bees?

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By Noah LaVie | United States

Noah Berlatsky, in his book “Are Mass Extinctions Inevitable?” interviews melittologists and when asked what happens if the bees go extinct they say, “checkmate” (Berlatsky 2012). The simple fact remains that bees are a keystone family of insects that now supports over half the population capacity of the Earth. They accomplished this through millions of years of evolutionary growth alongside the rebirth of plant-life after the K-T Extinction Event.

Our worlds’ ecology depends on these buzzing bodies for so much and truly humanity has never lived without their assistance. Now, for the first time perhaps ever, the bee is endangered. This danger may be beyond something they can come back from. To say that only our “dinners” will suffer from such an event is such an understatement as to be laughable (Palmer 2016).

If they go, the Earth will have exceeded its capacity for human life as that capacity drops from twelve to six billion people. The first signs a citizen may notice is the rising cost of multitudes of produce and other products that depend on bees. Then industries (ie. the almond industry, and honey industry) will begin to quarantine bees and seek to use them in greater amounts and in concentrated areas to allow the industry to solve their production cost issues.

Not long after, that overcrowding and concentration will result in greater die-offs and speed the death of the bee family ever onward (Bowers 2012). The bees’ greatest ally will become its worst enemy as corporate desires for their protection becomes self-serving and conservation efforts fail to see the whole picture and the source-sink dynamic of the wild bee will spread to the honeybee and its dwindling numbers will fall further (Franzén 2013). Based on the evidence hereto put forward, the bee population will then be likely to hit eighty percent population loss. Barring a successful cloning or an ecological miracle, the bee will go extinct in the wild at this point.

…The bee will go extinct in the wild at this point.

Without the wild bee, the general population will notice that certain products have permanently disappeared. Nationwide efforts will begin in nations with the capacity to effect change to save the bee, the bees population losses will only fall further. At their core bees are a hive species. If a colony loses too many bees the hive dies. “Population losses below [18.7%] are sustainable; lose any more, though, and the colony is heading toward zero,” (Palmer 2016).

A removal of bees from hives to study them will simply result in the death of more bees. Studying bees in colonies will result in them being cut off from the world outside and will cause their slow demise. Markus Franzén, the lead on a project to study wild bees in Sweeden, found only one population of bees that was able to persist out of “the sixty-one” surveyed when studied and isolated (Franzén 2013). That success rate is low enough to kill large swaths of populations in the study effort to prevent extinction alone.

After the bees are extinct, populations of humans in already food-challenged areas will collapse entirely. Unless wind-pollinated plants are at this point optimized enough, populations in advanced civilizations will suffer dramatically. Our dinners will certainly get a lot less interesting as people die from lack of nutrition and the diversity of plant life is reduced two-thirds (Palmer 2016). The world will at that point be able to only sustain six billion populace, the billion and a half that has grown over that amount will either starve or be killed. Rationing will be the least a government may do, population control and execution at the most.

The world gets ugly when resources get scarce…

The world gets ugly when resources get scarce and while this report does not seek to discuss the intersectionality of war, food scarcity, nuclear proliferation, climate change, human’s impact on species, the dependence of other animal species on bees, the diplomacy of the world without bees, ect., it does seek to answer the question of whether bees’ extinction will mean our own.

Bees operate as a lynchpin (Berlatsky 2012). While the direct effect of the extinction on the world may not result in our extinction, their extinction will indirectly result in tensions between nations, scared communities, and hungry people becoming irrational. Irrational people, leading scared communities, into a tense global world will not end well. The Doomsday Clock is only two minutes to midnight, and that is without the starvation that a bee extinction would cause.

Whether the extinction of the bee results in the extinction of man is not an easy question. It is true that bees are vital to the ecology of our planet. It is true that bees are going extinct. Humans have never existed in a world without bees. If the bees go extinct the world will be overpopulated by a billion and a half humans. Yet even then, our survival depends on so many human variables as to make it impossible to answer the question.

The only sure answer is that it will then be up to the human race on how to continue, to fight or coexist. If one were to look at our past history one might say there is no evidence that coexistence is achievable. If that is the case, then humanity is already on the way to extinction. Humanity is a big branch. It rest on a very big tree. If the trunk dies, so do all the branches. It takes “respect for the whole tree” to have anything but extinction (Boulter 2002).


Sources:

Berlatsky, Noah. Are Mass Extinctions Inevitable? Greenhaven Press, 2012.

Boulter, Michael Charles. Extinction : Evolution and the End of Man. Columbia University Press, 2002.

Bowers, Michael A. “Bumble Bee Colonization, Extinction, and Reproduction in Subalpine Meadows in Northeastern Utah : Ecological Archives E066-001.” Ecology, vol. 66, no. 3, 1985, pp. 914–927.

Colla, S. R, et al. “Documenting Persistence of Most Eastern North American Bee Species (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) to 1990–2009.” Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, vol. 85, no. 1, 2012, pp. 14–22.

Franzén, Markus, and Nilsson, Sven G. “High Population Variability and Source-Sink Dynamics in a Solitary Bee Species.” Ecology, vol. 94, no. 6, 2013, pp. 1400–1408.

Meeus, Ivan, et al. “Effects of Invasive Parasites on Bumble Bee Declines.” Conservation Biology, vol. 25, no. 4, 2011, pp. 662–671.

Palmer, Brian. “Would a World Without Bees Be a World Without Us?” NRDC, National Resource Defense Council, 15 Dec. 2016, www.nrdc.org/onearth/would-world-without-bees-be-world-without-us.

Rehan, Sandra, et al. “First Evidence for a Massive Extinction Event Affecting Bees Close to the K-T Boundary.” Plos One, vol. 8, no. 10, 2013, p. 76683.

United States, Congress, National Agricultural Statistics Service. “Honey.” Honey, National Agricultural Statistical Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 2018.

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