How Worried Should We Be About the Bees?

How Worried Should We Be About the Bees?

Thanks to WNET’s Nature for supporting this
episode. Check out American Spring Live on PBS and
Facebook to celebrate the start of spring! [♪ INTRO] Albert Einstein once said, “If the bees
disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” And that’s terrifying. I mean, Albert Einstein probably didn’t
say that, but still, the idea is terrifying. And even if you haven’t heard that particular
quote, you’ve probably heard how the death of honeybees will lead to some doomsday scenario. Like, no honeybees will mean global starvation
because 70 percent of our crops depend on them. Or, that all the world’s flowers will vanish
and the planet will become a colorless globe of death and despair. Is it true? Not really. Well, maybe a little. Mostly, trying to predict what will happen
if honeybees go extinct reveals just how much we need to care for other insects. Let’s start with that 70 percent of all
crops number, since that’s the one we hear the most. It seems to be a mistaken extrapolation. It’s true that roughly 70% of flowering
plant species are biotically pollinated, which means they need some sort of third party creature
to do the pollinating for them. But that includes only around 35% of the world’s
food crops. Many of the world’s staples—like corn,
wheat, and rice, for example—are wind pollinated, while others—like tomatoes, lettuce, and
beans—are self-pollinated. So tortillas, fried rice, french bread, and
pasta would be fine in the advent of a bee-pocalypse. But that leaves a bunch of plants that do
require pollinators that we might worry about. Turns out that of the hundred or so crop species
that dominate human diets around the globe, only 13 need pollinators, though another 30
are highly dependent on them. But, just because plants are pollinated by
animals doesn’t mean that they need honeybees specifically. The honeybee is just one of 20,000 or so species
of bee. And bees aren’t the only pollinators, either. In fact there are close to 200,000 different
species worldwide that act as pollinators, which include butterflies, flies, moths, beetles,
birds, and even mammals, like bats. So… what would actually happen if honeybees
went extinct? Well, there would be some changes. You see, the honeybee is the main human-managed
pollinator. We’ve grown to rely on it because it’s
easy for us to house, transport, and control. But it’s not native to most of the places
that depend on it now. Honeybees probably originated in Asia around
300,000 years ago. From there, they spread throughout Africa
and Europe—mostly by human hands—arriving in North America sometime in the 17th century. You could even think of them as an invasive
species in some areas, because while honeybees are good for agriculture, they’re not necessarily
good ecologically. They sometimes outcompete native bees, which
puts those other species at risk. They can also spread diseases to native bee
populations, and in some places, honeybees are the sole pollinator of invasive weeds,
helping ensure those invaders stick around where they aren’t wanted. If honeybees disappeared tomorrow, some crops
would be just fine. Most US alfalfa, for example, is now pollinated
by a solitary leaf-cutter bee. And when researchers at the Cornell University
Ithaca apple orchard recently ditched their honeybee hives, they found they still got
a full crop of apples thanks to native, wild bees. Other experiments have also suggested wild
bees could pollinate crops in the absence of honeybees. In Florida, bumblebees could replace honeybees
on blueberry farms. The solitary blue orchard bee, which occurs
throughout most of the United States and even as far north as Canada, could pollinate peaches,
cherries, and almonds. And the alkali bee—another solitary species
that’s native to the western and southwestern United States—could pollinate onions. As a bonus, these wild bees aren’t vulnerable
to colony collapse disorder. So, in many cases, if honeybees disappeared,
it’s likely other species could step up. But, that doesn’t mean we can stop worrying
about the honeybee. Without honeybees, some food would become
more expensive, because for many crops, honeybees are still the most important pollinators. Coffee, for example, doesn’t need honeybees. But their presence can significantly boost
yield. Higher yield means less expensive coffee. There are also a handful of fruit, seed, and
nut crops that would have much lower yields without honeybees. For instance, macadamia nut trees are up to
10 times more productive when visited by honeybees. And it’s not like we could just go, “Well,
the honeybees are gone now, so let’s move in the bumblebees.” There would be a lot of logistical hurdles
to get over. For a start, there’s concern that native
bees could be in trouble, too, because they’re also vulnerable to things like climate change
and pesticides. So we have to be just as proactive about protecting
them as we’re trying to be about protecting the honeybee. And there are other challenges, too. For example, it’s more difficult and expensive
to maintain commercial bumblebee hives. In part, that’s because bumblebees don’t
make honey, and honey sales are important for offsetting the expense of maintaining
a hive. And bumblebee colonies are smaller than honeybee
colonies — they average around 200 to 400 bees, while honeybee colonies can have as
many as 50,000 individuals. But more to the point, the average bumblebee
colony only lasts 3 to 5 months, while honeybee hives can last basically indefinitely, given
the right conditions. Other native bees present challenges, too. Solitary bees like the blue orchard bee don’t
multiply as rapidly as honeybees do. And farmers would have to provide nesting
sites for them, which is a lot more labor intensive than simply renting a few hives. Native bees also don’t handle transport
as well as honeybees do, so you can’t just shuttle them around to the places they’re
needed. And all the usual problems with introducing
non-native species would still apply. So, the good news is that there’s no doomsday
scenario to losing honeybees. But perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to
lessen our dependence on them anyway. Supporting biodiversity and native species
is never a bad thing, and there’s even some evidence that crops benefit from having a
variety of pollinators. For example, recent research in blueberry
fields has shown that pollinator diversity leads to fatter blueberries. And who doesn’t want that? The real issue is that even without colony
collapse disorder, native bees and other pollinators are struggling. So maybe we should worry a little less about
honeybees, and a little more about all the other species that buzz around us. You may notice a few more bees around you
once spring has sprung. And bees aren’t the
only ones suddenly abuzz with activity. Spring is nature’s biggest party. So come join the party and witness some of
the most amazing spring phenomena from the natural world, including
animal births, migrations, bears coming out of hibernation, and bees pollinating on Nature:
American Spring LIVE. With Nature: American Spring LIVE, award-winning
news anchor Juju Chang will guide you to locations across country so you can get
a front row seat to the start of the season. You’ll join scientists in the field as they
make real-time observations and discoveries about how
longer days and warming temperatures trigger big changes in animals and plants. And you can get in on the action, too. The goal of Nature: American Spring LIVE is
to inspire people to go outside and get involved with
science because everyone can make a difference. So, in addition to watching spring time spectacles
unfold, you can help researchers by becoming a citizen scientist in pursuit of
critical data on the science of Spring. Like, you can Track a Lilac and tell scientists
whether lilacs in your area are blooming—and by
doing so, you’ll be contributing to an ongoing study that’s lasted more than 60 years! And that’s
just one of six projects associated with the event. Nature: American Spring LIVE is a three-night
multiplatform event airing Monday, April 29 (i.e. TONIGHT) to Wednesday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET on
PBS and Facebook. And if you missed the
broadcast, head over to to watch all three episodes. [♪ OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “How Worried Should We Be About the Bees?”

  1. So basically the bee-poclypse isn't fake but we may be ok… maybe.. probably.. sure yeah.. as long as your not poor.

  2. You glossed over the fact that all flying insects are in decline. The overall population is down 50% from what it was even a few decades ago. That's really bad news, "apocalypse" is an appropriate term.

  3. I am pleased to see so many recognizing the threat to other insects. Many decades ago I would sit at a flowering bush and pet the hundreds of bees that flocked to it. Upon recollection I don't think I went ten minutes without seeing a praying mantis at the time.
    Those days have unfortunately become fiction to us all!

  4. So we wouldn't go extinct and there wouldn't be mass starvation. Fair enough. But I like my honey and my coffee, so please save the bees.

  5. The Bee-pocalypse is if ALL bees die, not just honey bees. This is the first SciShow video that has disappointed me. I'm at 3:18 and won't continue…

  6. Thank you for this.

    Perhaps its the press media mainly at fault but scientists need to be more diligent about the info that gets to the public by holding the media to account.

    99% of us have heard the bee-pocolypse headlines and its irresponsible.

    Because like with a number of other areas in science with these doomsday scenarios,some inevitably march ever forward or come to pass with no significant changes and it creates a credibility issue.

    Climate change is definitely a thing but its often framed as entirely man made when it is in fact a mixture of both.

    Obviously we've contributed significantly ever since the industrial revolution,so don't think i'm a denier or anything,but if we aren't honest that its in tandem with the natural ebb and flow of warming and cooling we again end up with a credibility issue,not to mention in both cases heavy politicization of scientific facts within both the scientific and political realms to present a narrative that either completely denies the issue or overplays the issue.

    As you say,it definitely matters we deal with this as it is a threat.Likewise with climate change.

    But we need to be honest about it.We get certain folks saying "end of the world in X years if we dont act now!"

    I get it,its provocative to illicit urgent action,but the reality is the deceit is often exposed and just damages the credibility and the effort to combat the issue.

  7. Don't forget about Monsanto monetising seeds/crops with their pesticides and pest controlled crops. Monsanto crops/pesticides kills pests but also bees. And they are known to sue farmers who don't use Monsanto controlled crops (yes, it IS real)….

  8. Sorry but this video is factually incorrect. It is not JUST honey bees in serious decline, it is ALL bees in decline, also most other pollinator insects such as butterflies too. So it won't just be a small proportion of crops affected it will be the majority affected. As for the wind pollinated crops there's other things to effect them.

  9. He never mentioned that without honey bees, we would have ….. no honey lol, thanks Steve Smith for agreeing

  10. Okay, so you're saying that an animal extinction is alright then? I'm highly dubious Who is funding this video?

  11. So we should train Honey Bees as a new military source and use them to start our attack on North Korea by arming them with mini Bee Nukes? Or did I miss the entire point of this video?

  12. So… If ALL the bees died, we'd be screwed. If just honeybees died, we'd have a sucky time, but we'd survive.

  13. However true the content of this video is I feel like it downplays the ecological crisis that we are undeniably in the middle of. Habitats ARE being destroyed at an alarming rate (this isn't by any means news) and as a direct effect insect species ARE dissapearing, also at an alarming rate. All is not lost but serious measures need to be taken within the next 5-10 years. Just because the crisis isn't very tangible to us living in developed countries doesn't mean it isn't very real. It IS real.

  14. Mosquitoes are pollinators. Females only feed on blood when they breed. Between matings, they subsist on nectar. Males subsist solely on nectar.

  15. One of the US Tyranny's "Climate Change" scam promoting propaganda outlets denies the Monsanto and pesticide Bee killoff?! How's that search for WMDs in Iraq going?!

    Or put another way, "They lie about everything, why would they lie about this?!"

    "Ignorance is Strength." I'm weak.

  16. Could someone clarify if the 35% was 35% of all plant species used in agriculture, or 35% of what is actually produced? I was also under the impression that the wind pollinated crops included the major staples (rice, wheat, soybeans, etc), so in terms of dietary contribution, they presumably count for even more than that. I guess it's harder to make an estimate, but following on the heels of the claim that loss of pollinators would result in serious famine, it does seem like an important distinction.

  17. Just because the Blue Orchard bee is capable of pollinating almonds, it does not mean that logistically they would actually be able to do so. California produces nearly half of the world's almond supply, and it utilises more than half of the US's honeybee population in order to do so, in part because the almond only flowers for a few weeks in late winter which does not give much time to pollinate such a large crop. I doubt the solitary Blue Orchard bees could cope.

  18. Only a fraction of honeybee hives are used to produce honey; most are transported to farms and orchards to provide pollination services.  Unfortunately, many of the crops pollinated in this way do not produce sufficient nectar for the bees to survive normally, so the beekeepers supplement their diets with – get this- CORN SYRUP!  The bees don't seem to like it, and they tend to pack up and fly away looking for better foraging opportunities.  That is what is happening to the domesticated honeybee, and the solution is really quite simple:  Instead of growing massive monocultures of only one crop, the farmers should interplant other species that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.  If those same food producers were to go the extra step, and provide space for habitat, they could maintain a population of wild bees, and not need to hire out for pollination.  With more hives producing honey, the cost of the sticky sweet stuff would decrease, and with more beehives happily going about business the way nature intended, fewer domesticated hives would collapse.

  19. So bees might die out, but are other pollinators safe from being endangered. Also, if global temeperatures rise or climactic conditions worsen, will that destroy crops anyway.

  20. The title of this video is total click bait. They didn't talk about if all bees went extinct, which is actually the problem to be concerned about, they just talked about honey-bees in relation to humans. Nobody cares, we just don't want bees to go extinct.

  21. Well first of all you really neglect how fragile civilisations are. If honeybees disappeared, the economic shock would create a crisis well beyond anything ever recorded (and considering many countries are currently running out of groundwater, plus other developing ecological catastrophes) and it would have the power to tear down nations.

    Second, it's not like other pollinating species aren't in a deep crisis as well. In the last decade, we lost over half of all insect biomass and it's rapidly going down this way due to capitalisms inherent radical greed and humanity's addiction to consume making us blind of all these tragic warning signs of the last years.

  22. Thanks ScyShow for bringing some real knowledge and rationality in this topic, which is ruled by drama and apocalypse mongers

  23. I thought this years ago when studying pollinators. I live in Oklahoma and was thinking we could go w/o honey bees. Because of so many native pollinators.

  24. Was this video funded by the anti science league? Minimizing an existing problem doesn’t resolve it. The presenter is clearly ignorant of a world filled with greater numbers of insects other than honey bees, and doesn’t have a grasp of what’s really at stake.

    Instead of regurgitating what is stated various studies, participate in some.

  25. Yet another pack of lies told to us by activists? You don't say. Clearly we need to care about all the species of pollinators, that is indisputable. There is a negative impact to activism that lies to create the sense of urgency that is considered necessary for activism to work. When the lie is caught you actually drive people away from the issue at large and shed a lot of doubt on anything you may say which is actually true.

  26. The title of the video is misleading. It leads people to believe that bees are not in danger, when the message you are trying to convey is "we would be fine if bees went extinct." I have personally talked at length with bee keepers, who say their bees have succumbed to colony collapse, likewise bees of other local keepers. This is a very real problem, and I disagree with the connotation associated with the title of your video.

  27. As someone who studies bees for a living, I'd just like to say thank you for bringing attention to our native bees. It is a misconception that honeybees are in decline – their numbers are actually on the rise. The problem arises when we are growing far too many crops which current honeybee number cannot sustain. Wild solitary bees and bumblebee populations are declining across the globe however, and it is super important we start to care for them properly. It is extremely dangerous to rely so heavily on one species for most of our crop pollination (in this case honeybees) as if they become susceptible to a new disease they will very quickly decline in numbers. Supporting bee biodiversity is the best way to ensure sustainable crop production. Sorry that was long I just feel like it's really cool you're drawing attention to wild bees! 🐝

  28. This video is extremely flawed.
    I've been a beekeeper for 25 years.
    Of course theres other pollinators but nothing pollinates like the honey bee. And the bumble bee is more endangered than the honey bee, which the video does not mention, and even if it weren't, its not a pollinator like the honey bee. A large bumble bee colony may have 400 bees, verses a honey bee colony with 50,000 bees.
    I've never seen a more ill-informed video on honey bees. And we should be very concerned about the disappearance of the honey bee.

  29. So, the world doesn't exist out side of north America?! I'm sick and tired of most youtube thinking this way :/

  30. Wait, bumblebees and honeybees are different species? I thought they were different names for the same species?

  31. I've been saying this for years. Just because the honey bees are struggling doesn't mean that other pollinators are. If all the bees disappeared tomorrow, we would all be sad, but the ecosystem would soldier on as it always has.

  32. Joke’s on you, I’ve already watched Film Theorist’s Bee movie episode and now I know that honeybees are invasive.

  33. I need more information, but the fact they are disappearing disturbs me. Is it possible that commercial pollination programs and honey collection are resulting in an inadvertent 'scorched earth' by other bees? I am asking anyone who might know if these hives that are transported by truck to perform these duties, are destroying the locals? I've also noticed many now favor soft drinks and just heard that some are now making their honeycombs out of plastic.

  34. This is an incredibly irresponsible spin of the facts.
    Your focus on cultivated crops for human consumption is not a balanced view of the devastation affecting the world ecosystems.

    Shame on you SciShow!! Did Hank approve this?

    The native pollinators that you claim will take up the slack in pollinating food crops are, in many cases, suffering as much or more than honeybees from pollution, pesticide use, lack of habitat and forage material due to monoculture crops and urban sprawl and a myriad of other, mostly human, pressures.
    Although native pollinators are very capable pollinators, they are often more niche in the plants they are able to pollinate and live in much smaller colonies, as you stated, so generally don't have the numbers to be effective for commercial food crops. Also once the food crop is pollinated, native bees struggle to survive for the rest of the year due to a dearth of pollen and nectar since there is little to no habitat surrounding the commercial crops.
    Honeybees are not the best suited or most efficient pollinators for many of the commercial crops but get the job done due to shear numbers.

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