Implications of Decline in Pollination

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14 March 2013 Kelsey-Lynne Hills: 10 Kee

Biology Essay: “A world without bees: what is causing pollinator declines in the Northern hemisphere and what are the potential implications for South Africa?”

The decline of all major pollinators in the Northern Hemisphere, such as bats, butterflies and especially bees are likely to result in negative implications around the globe including South Africa. Bees are the most commonly chosen pollinators around the globe although there are many other capable insects. As early as the 1900’s, colony collapses have occurred and have been documented in the Northern hemisphere. From 1972 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of colony collapses and a very significant decline in the number of maintained colonies. These statistics suggest that an economic downfall may soon take place and there shall be very negative impacts on the biodiversity and food sources if no preventative actions are taken.

Bees are vital contributors to pollination. Pollination is the transfer of male pollen to the stigma, which is the female part of the flower, with this fertilization takes place. This natural ecosystem service is vital for human societies and is the first step in having successful seed and fruit production by a plant. Once a plant has been successfully pollinated and fertilization has taken place, fruit and seeds develop and grow. Bees play an important role of pollinating flowers and plants. It is estimated that one third of Human food supply depends of pollination, most of which is accomplished by bees. Pollinators, such as bees, provide ecosystems and society with food sources such as seed crops, fruit, vegetables and nuts. The common Honeybee pollinates on average 130 crops alone. If an increase of Colony Collapse disorder continues and we do not take preventative actions soon, then essential food product supplies will decrease and in turn, the price of these products will increase.

As an explanation to Colony Collapse Disorder, around the world bees have been disappearing rapidly, in some instances beekeepers have lost 90-95% of their hive. Colony Collapse disorder (CCD) was first noticed in the US whereby entire bee colonies simply died out with unexplainable circumstances. In the winter of 2006/2007 alone, US lost approximately more than a quarter of their 2, 4 million bee colonies, accounting to tens of billions of bees died out due to CCD. This loss resulted in an 8 to 12 Billion dollar effect on US agricultural economy. These current events in pollinator decline indicate that a sixth major extinction of biological diversity will soon take place. Many different reasons for this pollinator decline have been put forward but none have been proven to be a definite cause. Some have been proven to be contributory factors, such as insecticides, pesticides, genetically modified crops, disease, loss/destruction of habitat, pollution and over-harvesting. It is strongly believed that the primary contributor to this significant decline in bee colonies around the globe is a result of the wide spread use of pesticides and insecticides.

These insecticides, used as commercial agrochemicals, go through very thorough testing procedures to ensure that they will not cause a harmful effect on the environment. However the information that these safety assessments reveal more often than not originate from the very companies that manufacture and sell these chemicals. For years various companies have been reporting that their products are perfectly safe for use in flowers that rely on bee pollination, and claim that their products would have no harmful effect on bee colonies. Independent scientists have published their research and are in common agreement that the results suggest otherwise. It has been identified that the main insecticide/pesticide called “Neonicotinoids”, a...
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