Honey bees have been on the decline in recent years, but now it is so noticeable that farmers in the United States are now worried about whether or not they will be able to yield enough crops to turn a profit.
According to reports, 139 US counties are facing a seriously declining bee population with an increased demand for food production, which puts domestic farmers in a bind. Without conservation efforts or some plan of action, it could both put farmers out of business and cause a food shortage in the United States.
Most of these “danger counties” are located within California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and Mississippi River valley.
They commonly grow “specialty crops” such as almonds, blueberries and apples, all of which are highly dependent upon wild bee populations to keep them going. Some areas, however, grow crops such as cotton, canola and soybeans that, although are not as dependent on honey bees per se, bees are still needed as the crops are grown in such large quantities that without them, supply cannot keep up with demand.
Two-thirds of the worlds crops are dependent on bee pollination to sustain their growth, making this not just a severe problem with the US, but worldwide.
Bee populations have been rapidly declining due to pesticides used on crops as well as pandemics that have spread through their colonies.
$3 billion a year of the US economy depends on wild bees, and thus without them, the United States could also face a severe economic problem.
Scientists at several United States universities created a map to show the “danger zones” clearly from federal land databases and consulting with state bee experts on the sustainability of crops and wild bees in the area.
Because of this effort, scientists say there is some good news to be had.
Taylor Ricketts, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, stated of the bright side of the research:
“The good news about bees is now that we know where to focus conservation efforts, paired with all we know about what bees need, habitat-wise, there is hope for preserving wild bees.”