Uh oh. Britain only has 25% of the bees it needs

bees photo
CC BY 2.0 kokogiak

Europe's temporary ban on neonicotinoids was a welcome sign that authorities are beginning to take widespread bee deaths seriously.

But we shouldn't allow ourselves to relax just yet.

A new study into honeybee pollination supply and demand, published in the journal PLoS One, suggests that there are 13 million fewer colonies than are actually needed to pollinate Europe's agricultural crops. As a result, honeybees are pollinating only two thirds of crops across Europe, but in Britain, the situation is particularly serious—with researchers suggesting that there are only enough honeybees to meet 25% of demand for pollination. For now, the only reason Europe isn't facing worse consequences for its honeybee deficit is the fact wild pollinators are picking up the slack. That's not, however, something we should rely on—at least according to lead researcher Professor Potts. Here's how he described the honeybee crisis to The Guardian:

"We face a catastrophe in future years unless we act now," said Professor Simon Potts, at the University of Reading, who led the research. "Wild pollinators need greater protection. They are the unsung heroes of the countryside, providing a critical link in the food chain for humans and doing work for free that would otherwise cost British farmers £1.8bn to replace."

It's not just the usual suspects of pesticides and diseases that are being blamed for the deficit. Population declines have also coincided with an increase in demand due to a growth in plantings of oil seed rape and sunflowers for biofuels, crops which replaced previously wind-pollinated cereals.

From bee-friendly solar farms to supermarkets stepping up to protect pollinators, there are signs that the world is beginning to take this threat seriously.

Let's just hope it's not too little, too late.

Uh oh. Britain only has 25% of the bees it needs
A honeybee deficit is threatening the viability of farming in Europe, and researchers say that relying on wild pollinators is not a solution.

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