TiredEarth team has recently had an interview with Prof. Dave Goulson and asked him about crises threatening bees on the occasion of Wrold Bee Day.
In your opinion, how is the coexisting of human with bees and how important is bee protection for the life on planet?
Bees and other pollinators are necessary for the pollination of 87% of the plant species on the Earth, and for 75% of our crops. If bees were to disappear, millions of people will starve, and the majority of plant life would die out. Hence it could not be more vital that we look after bees. So far, we have done a very poor job of this.
What are the global threats to bees? How do you see the problem in the UK?
Habitat loss, the spread of intensive monoculture farming, and the use of thousands of tons of pesticides on the landscape every year are the main drivers of bee declines. For the domestic honeybee and some wild bees, the accidental spread of bee diseases and parasites by man is also a major problem. Climate change is beginning to have impacts, particularly on bumblebees, and this is set to get much worse.
How do you think pesticides, like Monsanto's Round up, threaten bee colonies?
There is abundant evidence that insecticides such as neonicotinoids and fipronil are very harmful to bees. More recently, evidence is emerging that many fungicides are far more harmful to them than had been appreciated, and also that there can be unexpected synergies between pesticides. Glyphosate and other herbicides remove weeds, some of which are vital food sources for pollinators, while some recent studies suggest that glyphosate too may be directly toxic to bees. Analysis of samples of pollen or honey from bee colonies almost invariable find many different pesticides. Overall, we are exposing bees to a complex toxic cocktail with little regard for the consequences.
To overcome these crises, what are your suggested solutions?
We need to rapidly move away from intensive monoculture farming, with its associated pesticide use, to truly sustainable systems that produce food AND support biodiversity. Organic, permaculture/agroforestry systems offer a lot of promise. We can also transform our urban areas into a network of nature reserves for pollinators and other wildlife.