By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
As the world unites to fight off the pandemic of coronavirus, yet another plague is threatening the earth and mankind: the threat of the loss of the world’s bee populations.
Bees are the world’s chief pollinators, fertilizing about a third of all the food we eat, and 80 percent of all flowering plants.
Collectively, they account for about $150 billion of the global economy.
But in the last 10 years, the world’s bee populations have been dwindling by nearly 35 percent annually, due to the excessive use of pesticides, habitat loss and disease.
Mexico has more than 2,000 species of bees, and all but a handful of them are currently endangered.
There are more than 41,000 profession beekeepers in Mexico, mostly in the states of Chiapas, Veracruz, Guerrero and along the Yucatan Peninsula corridor.
Mexico’s roughly 2 million beehives bring in international revenues to the tune of $56 million per year.
The two main production corridors are the Yucatan Peninsula and the states of Chiapas, Veracruz and Guerrero.
Ironically, the global coronavirus lockdown has benefited wild bee populations in some parts of the world, according to the Bumble Conservation Trust in London, but the reduction of man’s intrusion into the bees’ habitat is only temporary.
And while reduced human activity may have given North America’s bees a much-needed respite, the Asian giant hornet, also known as the murder hornet, has arrived in North America and is threatening to annihilate the region’s entire already-beleaguered bee colonies and to decimate crops that depend on pollination.
Native to Japan, Korea and Taiwan, the orange and black Vespa mandarinia, which can grow to be nearly two inches long, was first seen in the northern U.S. state of Washington and Canada’s British Colombia late last year.
The Asian giant hornet’s main prey is the honeybee, and with its sharp, daggered mandibles, it can decapitate 40 bees a minute, purging an entire hive in just hours.
In honor of the United Nations’ World Bee Day, which falls on Wednesday, May 20, a number of private sector companies in Mexico and around the world have launched programs to help save bees from extinction.
One example is a sunflower sanctuary set up two years ago by local farmers and sponsored by several international NGOs in Los Llanos del Espinal, Oaxaca.
The once-dry region now has over 200,000 sunflowers to support local bee swarms, which have already begun to propagate.
Another Mexican private-sector foundation, Pronatura, is working to with coffee, vanilla and orange farmers in Veracruz to help protect wild bees by reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
On a more global scale, the French perfume, cosmetic and skincare company Guerlain, which uses bee honey and royal jelly in its products and has adopted the honeybee as its unofficial mascot, has set up an entire island in Quessant, France, to protect and study honey bees.
This year, it will host a Bee University event to study and review modern bee conservation practices.
Two years ago, renowned British conservation and former head of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation Sir David Attenborough warned that if we don’t do something to save our bees, the human race itself will be at risk.
“In the last five years, the bee population has dropped by a third,” he said.
“If bees were to disappear from the face of the earth, humans would have just four years left to live.”
…May 20, 2020