It would appear that pollinators in Britain have been declining for a lot longer than researchers realized. Contrary to the belief that local bees and wasps only began to go extinct after World War II, new evidence is showing that the large-scale changes in agricultural practices that began shortly after the First World War were the catalyst for these insects’ demise. Since 1850, 23 pollinator species have gone extinct, with the first massive disappearance occurring in the early 1920s. This rapid decline could have severe consequences for the future of food security across the U.K.
Bee populations tend to decline when they are deprived of their favorite pollen plants, and since flowering fields and grasslands have been cleared to create farmland, the bees’ natural diet has all but disappeared. Instead of the techniques favored by what is now referred to as permaculture farming—wherein beneficial native plants are interspersed with edible crops, maintaining biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem—agricultural practices have revolved around monocultures assisted by chemical fertilizers and neonicotinoid pesticides.
In addition to habitat loss, there’s the increasing problem of “colony collapse disorder” due to the rampant use of the pesticides mentioned above, so it’s no surprise that these species are disappearing at an alarming rate. In the zeal to eradicate unwanted “pest” plants and insects, we could very well have been the very instruments of our inevitable demise: Aculeate insects (those that sting; e.g., bees and wasps) are absolutely vital for sustainable agriculture. The vast majority of plants grown for food need to be pollinated in order to bear their fruit: without pollinators, there will be no food to eat; if there is no food to eat, we will die. It’s really that simple.
The UK is now putting a “National Pollinator Strategy” into effect; a ten-year plan that aims to protect and nurture native pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds, hoverflies, and other beneficial insects. In a similar vein, there are actions being taken across the pond to counter similar issues: last June, President Obama announced the creation of a Pollinator Health Task Force that will address and take action to protect native pollinators across the United States.
Via Phys Org
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