The ability for bees to forage for food efficiently is vital to both their fitness and the pollination of wild plants and crops. However, according to a new Perspective, foraging has become increasingly challenging for bees due to a host of human activities; since the food surplus adult bees can gather directly determines the number of bee offspring that can be raised, these challenges around foraging also threaten bees’ overall survival.
Although bees are highly specialized foragers, flying between widely dispersed patches of flowers for pollen and nectar can be a costly affair, particularly for larger species, including domesticated honeybees and wild bumble bees. Sub-optimal foraging can greatly impact their ability to thrive.
Here, Dave Goulson and Elizabeth Nicholls discuss the various elements of human activity that have impacted the efficiency of bee foraging during the Anthropocene, including exposure to neurotoxic pesticides and pollution and to increasing amounts of electromagnetic radiation, as well as the diverse effects of urbanization and industrial agriculture.
What’s more, the authors highlight how combinations of these stressors could adversely impact bee behavior in ways that prevent their ability to forage successfully.
According to Goulson and Nicholls, efforts to mitigate these impacts in urban areas, including the installation of pollinator-friendly greenspaces and national bans on urban pesticide use, have shown some success in alleviating some of these pressures on bee populations.