The interaction between agriculture and bees is a sensitive one. The balance is very precise, as is the ecology. Bees feed on pollen and nectar, while many crops need bees for pollination. But the agricultural habitat is not a natural one and does not provide optimal living conditions for bees. Large parts of the agricultural landscape are dedicated to single crops, some of which are treated with pesticides, which help to preserve the crops.
In the past few years, Europe has experienced a decline in the health of managed honey bees which has resulted in damage to colonies and populations. Many different possible causes have been suggested and promoted. But the overall scientific consensus is that the health decline is caused by many different factors acting together, and principal among them are the parasitic mite Varroa, viruses carried by mites, Nosema ceranae, and the loss of suitable habitats and nutrition. The declines in Europe and the USA are not replicated in other regions. The total number of honeybee colonies globally has increased by approximately 45% since 1969 according to FAO data.
The bee is a unique and vital insect in our world and all those involved in agriculture need to work together to establish and understand the causes of its plight and to take decisive action to ensure its survival.