The thought of a bee might make you nervous about getting stung and your instinct is to swat it. But would bee extinction stop the earth in its tracts? You may never have thought about what would happen if bees went extinct as we mostly associate them with honey and stinging. Bees, however, are critical to the environment and we would be in some pretty big trouble without them. This article will look at why bees are more important than you realize and if they went extinct, what would happen?
Why Bees Are So Important
The main way to think about bees is as pollinators for crops. Honey bees, in particular, are more vast in numbers than all other types of bee or pollinating insects. They, of course, make honey which is a tasty and very healthy treat, but pollination is the reason they are so important to the earth.
Many fruits and vegetables require pollination to grow and develop. This cannot happen without bees, and many of your favorite foods rely on them including:
This is just a small example, but for most flowering plants, including citrus fruits, they require bees to grow. This is the key importance of bees: to help grow our food. This is not just the edible foods that we crave, but they help grow the plants we require for manufacturing processes such as cotton and flax which will look at more in a moment.
What Has Been Happening To All The Bees?
You may have seen news stories based around the sudden demise of the bee population. This went back to the 1990s when beekeepers noticed greater losses than usual of honeybees during the winter. As time has gone on, there have been mass die-offs of many of the nearly 4000 different species of bees.
This rose going into 2006, with the demise of bees happening at an alarming rate. They dubbed this “colony collapse” and people weren’t sure exactly why they were dying off so rapidly. Some theories suggest:
- Climate change
- Losing flower meadows
- Varroa mites which feed on the blood of bees
- The increased use of pesticides
The main thing is that all bees have not been wiped out. The problem is the greater understanding of what would happen if bees went extinct. Here are some problems we would face.
1. No More Honey
This might seem like a superficial problem, but it’s quite significant. Besides being a pleasurable taste sensation, honey provides a lot of health benefits and humans have been consuming it for thousands of years. Honey is an important antibacterial and antimicrobial food that is filled with antioxidants. Honey, can also help lower blood sugar, improve cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and can help with digestive issues.
Financially, it’s also an important food. Honey is actually a big ingredient in the cosmetic industry, as it is good for the skin and the scalp. Honey, can also be used to treat cuts and burns, and this is why you find it in so many natural balm products. There are also lozenges and cough medicines made from honey.
2. The Financial Issue
Honey is a $7 billion dollar a year industry just from its use as a food product. When you add up all the other products that can be made from honey, the lost revenue would be in the hundreds of billions. This is a big reason that many call it liquid gold and the loss of bees could cripple many economies.
3. The Loss Of Crops
We mentioned this at the start, but it can’t be understated what would happen to a majority of crops if bees went extinct. The world’s food supply, and the economy related to that, would take a massive hit. The United Nations states that of the 100 main crops that provide 90% of the world’s food supply, over 70% exist because of bee pollination.
The next time you walk into your grocery store, look around as half of what you see would be gone if bees went extinct.
4. Say Goodbye To Dairy Products
If you’ve ever asked what would happen if bees went extinct, you probably wouldn’t expect this answer. We need to remember that humans are not the only species on earth that eat plants pollinated by bees. Dairy cows are a big consumer of pollinated plants and require about 100 pounds of them a day.
Most of what they eat needs to be pollinated by bees. Without enough of these plants, cows could not survive on the earth, and dairy products would become a thing of the past.
Sheep and goats also eat pollinated plants, so any dairy cow alternatives would also disappear along with them. Dairy cows also produce a significant percentage of beef, so this would cut down on the supply, causing the prices of beef to rise drastically.
5. No More Cotton
A world without cotton is actually something not to laugh at. We discussed the non-food type plants that bees pollinate, and cotton is the most significant. There are other synthetic materials for clothing, but cotton as we know it would cease to exist.
Without bees to pollinate the cotton plant, a majority of your wardrobe would not exist. Most of the clothing and material you own at least contain some cotton. Cotton also makes up many staple items such as underwear, socks, and denim. It’s also key for making bedsheets, shoelaces, disposable diapers, and toilet paper.
6. You Would Probably Go Broke or Starve
This probably sums up the main issue of what would happen if bees went extinct. You can already see the problems regarding all the plants that bees pollinate. We would still have proteins such as pork and chicken along with certain things like corn and beans, but there wouldn’t be enough to go around. Basically, the cost of food would skyrocket.
With the amount of food that would be lost, it would lead to the scarcity of any other available food. This scarcity, of course, would drive food prices through the roof. So, even if you could find food available, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Rates of malnutrition would also skyrocket because we need a wide range of vitamins and minerals from different foods. And the problem is, we simply would not have all these foods if bees went extinct. A majority of the vitamins and minerals we get in our diet come from plants pollinated by bees. The lack of nutrition that would affect people could end up crippling the economy because of health care costs.
The world’s economy would also take a nosedive with major industries like cotton, dairy, and coffee disappearing. The cotton industry in the U.S. alone is a $21 billion industry.
You’ll probably never look at a little bee the same way again. The insect we tend to run away from turns out to be the most important one for us. Whether it comes down to food issues, production, health, or economy, we now know what would happen if bees went extinct.
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