What would happen if bees didn’t pollinate?

what would happen if bees did not pollinate May 30, 2022


What would happen if bees didn’t pollinate?

Written by Steve Fosterin Bee Health,Bee Trivia

Bees are the best insect pollinator there is and are responsible for about $11 – $15 billion worth of hired industrial pollination work a year. They are responsible for pollinating $30 billion worth of crops in a year. This is why the US government developed the Pollinator Protection Research Plan. Many are now recognizing the catastrophic effect if the population of crops, plants, and flowers ceases to exist.

What would happen if bees didn’t pollinate? The direct answer is that the world will suffer a tremendous change in the environmental, ecological and agricultural aspects. Plant species that rely on bees for pollination would not exist and that would ripple all the way to us humans.

It cannot be stressed enough how important these insects are. Although other species that can pollinate plants, the majority of the pollination is done by bees. In fact, the Pollinator Protection Research Plan covers not just bees but also birds, bats, and butterflies. However, the decline in the bee population is what really prompted the government to give it more attention.

Environmental Impact

Our world is home to countless species of animal and plants. Many are known, but there are also countless more that are still undiscovered. With that being said, the majority of plants rely on pollinators to keep their species thriving. Sure, there are other pollinators but most of the flowering species of plants rely on bees to help them reproduce.

From the 21.7% of the 2.6 million honey bee colonies located in the United States, 23% died over the winter of 2013 and 2014 which is thankfully lower than the 30% recorded the previous winter.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

This is still a high percentage if you ask the experts. Honey bees are not the only species that suffer this sudden decline in population, even the other species of bees are affected.

If the decline continues to happen, species that once thrived will cease to exist and the biodiversity of a region may suffer. We run the risk of losing plant species that have medical benefits or worse, run the risk of not being able to identify a plant species that can help the pharmaceutical industry.

Agricultural Impact

Bees are responsible for pollinating 70% of the world’s top 100 food crops humans consume.

Given these numbers, you can easily estimate how much of an impact it would have in our environment if bees population continue to decline. For sure, plant species that rely solely on bees to pollinate them would eventually cease to exist if no intervention measures are put in place.

This decline in bee population will not stop in just plants but will also resonate to the animals that feed on plants that bees pollinate. When this happens, even the connected animal kingdom will be at risk of suffering in the event that all bees die.

Yes, humans can fertilize the plants, there are even drones that can pollinate the crops but this will cost more than just renting colonies of bees to do the same job. It would translate to higher priced produce such as fruits and vegetables which most lower-income families may struggle to support. Farmers who once grew apples, avocados and cucumbers will face the choice of either switching into growing wheat or other grains rather than employing people to do the manual pollination.

Human Impact

“If bees disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”

Widely believed to have been said by A. Einstein

The human impact of losing bees will undoubtedly start at the agricultural level and will then continue to affect the consumers. Since bees pollinate 70% of the 100 most consumed food crop by humans, we can easily conclude that without bees, certain food will not be readily available.

The food supply will dramatically change as the population of bees continues to decrease. It is estimated that three months after all bees die, farmers will experience a significant decline in their harvest and farm produce yield. Prices of the remaining produce will skyrocket and within six months, farmers will find it costly and hard to maintain the supply for fruits and veggies. Small time farmers may convert their farms into wheat or grain and at the end of the year, the food supply will be so affected that we, the consumers, will be left with bland and boring options.

Can We Survive Without Bees?

The USDA termed the extreme losses of bee colonies over the last few years as the “Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), epidemic.

Experts say that the cause may be a single factor or a group of known factors that have prompted this scenario. Many have attributed the CCD epidemic to a combination of pesticides and mites.

The decline in the bee population spurred many questions and one of them is will we (humans) survive without bees? The answer would be yes we will because 60% of the human food grown all over the world doesn’t need animal pollination to thrive. Grains such as rice, corn, and wheat does not need bees to grow. In total, there are 28 crops that are under the same category as these grains.

A total of 87 crops employ animal pollinators to help them grow and only 13 of them need the animals to pollinate, while 30 can be considered as highly dependent. These numbers mean that the production of food crops will continue but there will be significant changes in them. Food that is once a staple on our table might not be available anymore. Varieties will decrease and of course, the price of hard to supply produce will rise up.

Crops that are highly reliant on bees pollinating them are apples, almonds, avocados, onions, and some berries. If bees are not around anymore, these crops that are highly dependent on bees for pollination will either be scarce of worse extinct.

There are 100 crops that provide 90% of the food humans consume worldwide. From these 100 crops, 71 are relying on bees to pollinate them. Europe, on the other hand, stated that a total 84% of their 264 vegetables and 4,000 plants species are here because of bees.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO )

Imagine if bees disappear from the face of the earth, our dinner menu would change a lot. To be honest, I think that the food available when this happens would not excite me in the slightest but it would be a case of just getting used to it, I suppose.



As the world changes, there are certain changes that cause alarm and this is no more truer than the difference in the bee population. Bees are key species for the pollination of many crops and their population decline will affect us in so many aspects. Without them, many plant species may not have a chance to grow or worse, certain crops will not be able to grow. Our food source (plants and animals) have a direct relation to bees whether we like it or not. Losing them will not only mean losing honey but can also mean the extinction of many plant species. Although we can survive without them, the amount of work they do in pollinating our crops cannot be replaced by mere drones or humans.

It is encouraging that the government now sees the possible adverse impact the decline in bee population have in our lives but more action is still needed to ensure the continuum of their species.

Related Questions

How long can humans live without bees?

Humans will survive even without bees. There is no information stating that humans will perish after bees disappear. What the disappearance of bees would do is limit the variety of food choices that we have. Certain crops are heavily reliant on the pollinating power of bees. Although we humans will survive, it is still a cause of alarm for the agricultural industry now that bee populations have continually decreased.

Can we pollinate without bees?

Yes, we can. Humans can do the pollination of crops if the issue doesn’t get solved, fortunately, but it comes with a cost. Employing humans to pollinate crops will be a lot more costly than employing bee colonies to do so. Technology can help now that drones can also be used to pollinate crops but this also comes with a high price tag.


Colony Collapse Disorder – What You Don’t Know


Honey bees are one of the most important insect species for our planet. This is because they are among the most important pollinators of food crops – without honey bees many plants cannot grow and multiply. However, there are many issues today that put honey bee populations at risk, including climate change, pesticide and parasites. In recent years, one specific phenomenon leading to the decline of honey bee populations has received a lot of media attention. It’s called colony collapse disorder.

What is colony collapse disorder? Colony collapse disorder refers to a phenomenon where the majority of worker bees leave the hive and disappear. What distinguishes the colony collapse disorder from other causes of colony loss is the fact that most worker bees simply disappear. But, they leave behind a healthy queen, the brood, plenty of food resources and a certain number of nurse bees to care for the developing offspring.

Although similar occurrences have happened in the past, the phenomenon got the name “colony collapse disorder” in 2006, when it started happening on a massive scale all around the world. What exactly is colony collapse disorder? What causes it? How dangerous it is for the global population of honeybees and for the stability of ecosystems? These are some of the questions we will try to answer today.

Colony Collapse Disorder: What is it?

There is a number of causes that can lead to the decline of honey bee colonies and large colony losses, some of which include destructive industrial agriculture and the use of pesticides that are harmful to bees. However, the fact that there are dead bees doesn’t necessary mean you’re dealing with the colony collapse disorder (CCD).

In fact, one of the characteristics of CCD is that there are usually very few dead bees found close to the hive.

There are a couple of other symptoms that characterize CCD, as opposed to other issues that lead to the death of a colony. First of all, there is always a living queen present in hives that have suffered from CCD. If there is no queen in the hive, this means that the worker bees have left because the colony was queenless. This is a common cause of colony loss, but it is not considered CCD. Moreover, when CCD occurs the hive is usually left with abundant food reserves. The larvae in capped cells are left intact too, and there is usually a number of nurse bees left to care for the developing larvae. However, the number of worker bees left inside the hive is too low which eventually leads to the death of the colony.

There are also some signs that can point to CCD before the phenomenon occurs. Two key indicators are:

1. The hive contains mostly young adult bees.

2. An inability to nurse the larvae to full health, which happens when there are not enough worker bees present to care for the brood.

The History of Colony Collapse Disorder

The story about what is now called colony collapse disorder started (more or less) in 2006. Namely, during the winter of 2006-2007, many beekeepers began reporting losing an unusually high number of colonies. These reports heightened concern about colony losses has started in North America, but similar occurrences have actually been noted across Europe, and even in some Asian and African countries. This is already more than 10 years ago, so what’s changed? At the time, CCD was thought to be a major threat to the survival of honey bees in general, but in recent years, the number of reported cases of CCD has declined significantly. However, CCD is still a problem and we still don’t have a complete answer as to what causes it.

With that being said, phenomena similar to CCD have occurred periodically throughout the history of beekeeping. Such occurrences have been labeled by various names, including disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease . While reports of such phenomena often involved a degree of mystery, today we actually understand the causes quite well.

For example, a case of increased colony losses that happened in the UK as far back as 1906 was very well documented. The “mysterious” disease spread from the Isle of Wight to the rest of the UK, and was known at the time as the “Isle of Wight disease”. A couple of years after, the disease was attributed to a specific type of mite that attacks beehives. However, today, we know that the “epidemic” was actually caused by several different issues that had similar symptoms, including unusually adverse weather conditions.

What are the Causes of Colony Collapse Disorder?

When it comes to CCD, there is still no clear answer as to what causes it. We don’t know whether is a combination of factors, or something specific that causes the bees to disappear in such a way. However, the likeliest answer is that CCD is not a mystery disease. A more plausible explanation would be that the disappearances of bee colonies are connected to one or more harmful factors in the environment that we are already aware of. It can be argued that multiple factors are responsible for CCD and scientists have speculated quite a lot on the topic of what causes CCD. Here are some of the possible explanations.

Diseases and Parasites

There is a considerable number of diseases and parasites that attack honey bees, which are usually all too familiar to skilled beekeepers. However, these diseases usually have symptoms that differ quite a bit from the mysterious disappearances of bees that happen with CCD.

For example, there are two bacterial infections that frequently attack honey bees, but they actually affect the larvae and not the adult bees, which is exactly the opposite of what happens with CCD. Moreover, when a colony is infected with parasites there are usually clear signs that point to the infection, which is clearly not the case with CCD. Finally, there might be a chance that various viral infection can be a factor contributing to CCD, but it is still highly unlikely that this is the only cause.

Pesticides and Chemicals

Today, much of agricultural practices across the world involve the use of pesticides in various degrees. Many of these pesticides are harmful to honey bees. Where the crops depend on bee pollination, it is necessary to be very careful. However, when bees are poisoned by the chemicals used in agriculture, this is usually very obvious and dead bees can be easily seen .

On the other hand, new types of pesticides are constantly being developed and there is one specific type called neonicotinoids. It has been suggested that these chemicals can be harmful to the bees’ health, but not enough to kill them immediately. These could lead to symptoms such as CCD over time.

Agricultural and Beekeeping Practices

Finally, various changes in human practices can seriously affect the life cycle of honey bees. This does not concern only CCD, but might be helpful in explaining this phenomenon. This might involve the use of genetically modified crops, but also the fact that some beekeepers lease colonies to farmers for the pollination of crops. This kind of practice can cause nutritional stress to bees which might be one of the causes leading to CCD.

Colony Collapse Disorder: Final Thoughts

“The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director

The importance of honey bees, and bees in general, can not be overestimated. While the colony collapse disorder remains somewhat of a mysterious phenomenon, it is beyond doubt that human activities and development are putting honey bees in danger. Air pollution, pesticides, and many other factors can have a negative effect. What can we do about it? Every little step counts! Planting bee-friendly flowers in your garden and buying local honey are some of the easiest actions that can be taken to help honey bees, at least just a little bit.

Related Questions

What causes the decline of honey bee populations and colony loss?

Some of the major threats that honey bee colonies all around the world are dealing with include diseases, parasites, poor nutrition, but also human-related factors such as pollution and pesticides. Foraging bees also depend on the weather a lot. They cannot go out during rainy periods, and during this time they need to live off the food reserves stored in the hive. If there is not enough food, this leads to poor nutrition. Poorly fed bees are not healthy, and this makes them more susceptible to diseases.

What parasites and insects can be dangerous to honey bees?

Large hornets and some large dragonflies both feed on honey bees. Moreover, there is a considerable amount of parasites that can attack the beehive. These include Varroa mites, tracheal mites, wax moths, and bee lice.

















Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *