From neonics to parasites, pollinators are under assault. New methods of farming to preserve biodiversity may be needed
Of all the environmental issues we face, the fate of our bees seems to have resonated most with the public. In the UK visitors to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew are getting a dramatic insight into the importance of bees when they step inside a multi-sensory 17-metre high aluminium behive installation, which converts the vibrations emanating from a nearby bee colony into sound and LED light.
It’s not just honeybees that are causing concern - many wild bee populations are threatened; some have already disappeared.
Their decline raises serious questions about the sustainability of our agricultural systems and means we face some difficult - even moral - choices about how our food is produced.
Bees really do seem to be up against it: parasites, like the varroa mite, habitat loss, climate change and a relatively new type of chemical insecticide are all implicated in their decline. But separating out the various potential factors is difficult, and poses a challenge to policy makers.
Concern first focused on the blood-sucking varroa mite, which has spread from the east, right across the world - with the exception of Australia. The European honeybee is particularly vulnerable, as it lacks any natural defences. There are chemical treatments, but...