The smaller bee population poses a serious threat to agricultural yields because plants rely on pollination. A limited food supply would also cause a rise in food prices.
Researchers said the losses were caused by extreme weather conditions, but the use of pesticides also played a role in the destruction. The Scottish government announced a £200,000 fund earlier this year to help bee farmers restock and rebuild colonies.
Key quote: "Honey bees worldwide are having to contend with habitat loss and reduction in variety of forage sources due to pressures of intensifying land use, increasing spread of new and old pests – caused by globalisation of trade in bees and bee products – as well as possible adverse effects of agricultural pesticides," said Dr Alison Gray, co-author of the study. "For bees in northern Europe, poor weather conditions – combined with these other factors – are certainly making beekeeping a challenge and survival difficult for honey bees generally".
Why it matters: Bees' pollination services increase the yield of many commercial crops – some by up to three times. Without this pollination there will be less food, and scarcity leads to price rises. Other pollinators could do the job, but they are threatened by bad weather, habit and forage loss, and honeybee hives are easily transported from orchards to fields. So, you'd think it would be in government's interests to look after bees.
In England and Wales, a similar level of bee mortality was recorded as in Scotland and for the same reasons, but here no fund was available to help bee farmers buy new bees to restock their apiaries. The bee farmers had to use savings or take out bank loans to rebuild their colonies. Insect pollination (of which much is by honeybees) has been valued at £400m per annum to the UK economy and €153 bn per annum globally.
Full article: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/21/bees-buzzfeeds-pesticides-food-prices