In celebration of Earth Day
This week we are marking international Earth Day in assemblies throughout school. This year’s theme – “Restore Our Earth” – resonates with me as I have been researching the fortunes of the Apis Mellifera (or Western honey bee) for my Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).
My essay examines whether the pollination by the apis mellifera is vital for life, in light of the frightening statistic that hive loss at an all-time high, averaging around a forty per cent loss each year. As it happens, my conclusions to this specific question veer towards the negative, as we are seeing more and more inspirational technological advances that are responding to the decrease in natural pollinators. One example is Edete, an Israeli start up that uses lidar-sensing technology to pollinate an almond crop, that is seeing success at producing large scale pollination. Even though A. Bragdon states “bees do 15 billion dollars’ worth of work each year for farmers” (2019), humans are resilient and I think technological innovation will mean that we prevail.
However, my research did show me how important the apis mellifera are, particularly when it comes to ensuring variety among trees, plants and the animal ecosystem. While we might engineer to ensure the survival of certain foods, the plants that have no economic impact or are located in remote/hard to access areas will no longer be pollinated by the apis mellifera and will not be pollinated by humans as they have no immediate value – with the inevitable conclusion that they will die out.
In conclusion – while I think our food supplies will most likely survive, should the honeybee population continue to decline, it is likely that our food will be less varied and more expensive. Ecotourism will be hard hit, as the impact of pollinator loss extends to their predators, and then theirs, and so on up the food chain. It’s highly likely that the loss of the honeybee could change the makeup of the natural world.
I urge anyone reading this to look at the Earth Day resources online (there are lots of them, especially related to food chain issues). You might consider taking a personal ‘foodprint calculator’ or consider some of the things that you could do to support our natural pollinators. In case you’re wondering (I was) – here are some of the best flowers for honeybees. Happy planting!
By Louis Tether, Year 13