The history of the bee :
The honeybee is a highly sophisticated insect that has evolved over millions of years. The earliest recorded Bee was found in Myanmar. It was found encased in amber and has been dated as 100 million years old. It's likely that the bee originated in the Far East. In those early days, the bees were more like wasps, eating other insects rather than nectar and pollen. It's unclear exactly when bees decided to become vegetarian but considering the choice between eating a fly and some delicious, sweet tasting nectar from a cherry tree in full bloom, it seems like a good decision.
Today, bees lives all over the planet, counting almost 20,000 differents species. The honey bee is just on of these species. They are not only responsible for most of the crop pollinisation but also for the rich flower diversity we enjoy today, seems to think scientist.
For our ancestors, discovering honey was as life changing as the discovery of fire (Honey was the most important sweetener for beverage and food in Europa until the beginning of the 19th century and the improvement of the sugar extraction from beet by a german chemist, Frédéric Achard). But it wasn't until Egyptian times that peoples started to keep bees at home. The Egyptian hive design was a simple upturned straw basket called a skep. These are still used today although mainly for temporarily housing a colony of bees that has recently swarmed. The modern beekeeping is born because of the breakthrough of a man called Lorenzo Langstroth.
The bee problem :
Humans have been benefiting from bees for ages through honey, royal jelly or beeswax directly or indirectly through pollination. Bees are one of the most important pollinators. Out of 54 leading crops, 42% are pollinated by at least on wild bee species, while out of 107 leading crops about 33% are pollinated by honeybees and other wild pollinators (Klein et al., 2007). An estimate of 80% of flowering plants depends on pollination and about half of tropical plants are bee pollinated (FAO (1)).
Figure 1. Example of crops pollinated by bees (NAPPC)
The economic value of pollination of fruits vegetables and seeds is estimated to be close to $20 billion in the USA (FAO (2)), between $37 billion and $91 billion in the UK (BBC, Richard Black) and €153 billion worldwide (Gallai et al., 2008).
Figure 2. Economic impact of insect pollination on agricultural production used directly for human food worldwide (UNEP report 2010)
Honeybees have been more and more suffering from Colony Collapse disorder (CCD). CCD was first reported in 2006 and is defined as a colony only composed of the queen, substantial amount of food and young bees, without any adult bees or their dead bodies (USDA News and EPA article). CCD is the result of multiple factors including but not limited to pesticides, pathogens (Varroa mites, Nosema cerenae, deformed wing virus…), change or loss of habitat and poor nutrition (USDA News; EPA article; NRDC article). In 2006-07 and 2007-08 honeybee colony loss due to CCD in USA was estimated respectively to 31% and 36% which is higher than the 10-20% loss considered normal (UNEP report 2010).
Awareness needs to be raise regarding bees’ importance and the danger they face.
Our team want to raise awareness on bees’ importance for our ecosystem and the trouble they face, on one hand. On the other hand, in addition we want to establish a method to detect multiple factors related to CCD, indicating bees’ health state, which will allow early detection and early measures to save them.
- ➟ "Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops" Klein, A-M, et al. Proceedings of the
Royal Society of London B: Biological
- Sciences 274.1608 (2007): 303-313
- ➟ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the U.N. (1) ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/i0842e/i0842e04.pdf
- ➟ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the U.N. (2) http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0104e/T0104E0b.htm
- ➟ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the U.N. (3) ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/012/i0842e/i0842e09.pdf
- ➟ "Economic valuation of the vulnerability of world agriculture confronted with pollinator decline."
Gallai, Nicola, et al. Ecological
- economics 68.3 (2009): 810-821.
- ➟ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5201218.stm
- ➟ United Nations Environment Programme 2010 - UNEP Emerging Issues: Global Honey Bee Colony Disorder and
Other Threats to Insect Pollinators
- ➟ Nature’s Partners: Pollinators, plants and you www.nappc.org (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign)
- ➟ http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572 (USDA: United States Department of Agriculture)
- ➟ https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder (EPA: Environment Protection Agency)
- ➟ https://www.nrdc.org/stories/buzz-about-colony-collapse-disorder (NRDC: Natural Resource Defense Council)