In recent years, beekeepers have reported colony losses, especially in the western European Union, such as France, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. In many other parts of the world, including the United States, Russia and Brazil, there is a similar problem that reflects a global problem. This is important because it can have a serious impact on the purchase of honey and its market.
What are pollinators?
A small number of plants pollinate themselves; But the vast majority depend on insects, animals, wind or water for reproduction. In addition to bees and other insects, a wide variety of animals, from bats, birds and lizards that visit tropical flowers for nectar, to vertebrates such as monkeys, rodents or squirrels can be pollinators. As bee populations decline, farmers in some parts of the world, such as China, have begun pollinating their orchards by hand.
Economic impact of pollinators
In the European Union, 78% of wildflower species and 84% of plant species are at least partially dependent on insects for seed production. Pollination by insects or other animals also allows for greater variety and better quality of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
It is estimated that about 5 to 8% of world crop production is directly related to animal pollination.
Bees in Europe
In Europe, pollinators are mostly bees and flies, but there are also butterflies, some beetles and bees. Western domestic bee is the most well-known species and is managed by beekeepers to produce honey and other products. Europe also has about 2,000 wild species.
The threat of pollinator extinction
This has attracted public attention because bees and other pollinating insects are essential to our ecosystems and biodiversity. Less pollination means that many plant species are reduced or even extinct along with the organisms to which they are directly or indirectly dependent. In addition, the reduction in the number and diversity of pollinator populations affects food security with potential losses to agricultural products.
Why are pollinators declining?
At present, there is no scientific data on the full picture of the problem; But there is evidence of a significant reduction in pollinators due to human activities. Bees and butterflies are the species for which the best data are available, indicating that one in ten species of bees and butterflies are endangered in Europe.
There is no single reason for this decline, but threats include land use change for agriculture or urbanization, leading to the destruction of natural habitats. In addition, intensive agriculture leads to homogeneous landscapes and the loss of diverse flora, reduced food and nesting resources.
Pesticides (insecticides and fungicides) and other contaminants can also directly and indirectly affect pollinators. That is why the parliament emphasizes the need to reduce the use of pesticides.
Also invasive to bees are invasive alien species such as Vespa velutina and diseases such as parasites. Another factor is climate change, rising temperatures and severe weather events.
Measures to prevent the reduction of bees and other pollinators
To address this problem and complement efforts at EU and national level, the European Commission launched the EU Pollination Plan in 2018, the first comprehensive EU-wide initiative focusing on wild pollinators. Its purpose is to improve knowledge about reducing pollinators, addressing the causes and raising awareness of the issue.
In a vote on the EU’s new 2030 biodiversity strategy in June 2021, MEPs called for an immediate review of the EU’s pollination plan. The revised initiative should include a new framework for pollination monitoring across the EU with strong measures, objectives and timed specific indicators, including impact indicators and capacity building. They are also based on the goals of the Commission Agreed to reduce the use of hazardous and chemical toxins by up to 50%.