The pollination of bees is crucial to sustain our modern food system. ATTRIBUTION: Alvesgaspar (Wikimedia Commons)

Have you ever stopped to think about what would happen if bees went extinct? A life without bees would be detrimental for most living creatures. A 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that honeybee losses in managed colonies were 42.1 percent for the previous year. The disappearance of honeybees would mean a future without many types of fruits, vegetables, oils, and nuts. As many plants depend on bees to pollinate them, those plants will also gradually die off. Let’s look at some of the major consequences of a world with no bees.

Diminished Food Supply

Nearly one-third of the food supply in the United States depends on honeybees to grow, including favorites like apples, oranges, carrots, pumpkins, and strawberries. In addition to many fruits and veggies, bees are also responsible for pollinating many types of nuts and beans, including coffee beans. With the loss of a substantial amount of crops, our food diversity would be highly limited. In turn, the absence of many foods could negatively impact our health. Instead of fresh fruits and veggies making up a major chunk of our diet, we would further need to rely on unhealthy artificial foods.

Increased Food Costs

As the number of bees drastically shrinks, you can expect to see a gradual cost increase for many fruits, vegetables, and other crops that rely on pollination. Supply and demand would be part of the reason for this, but consumers would also need to make up for the cost of artificial pollination or pollinating by hand. The use of artificial pollination has been estimated to cost the global agriculture industry an average of $155 billion each year.

Reduced Health and Wellness

While the extinction of bees wouldn’t mean the eradication of all humans, the consequences of a minimal food supply could seriously impact our health. Some crops, like grains, do not require pollination from bees, meaning that grain-based products like bread, pasta, cereal, and sweets could survive. In turn, grain-eating animals like chickens would also thrive in a bee-free world. However, when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, we would experience a massive loss of essential nutrients. As a result, diseases that are rare in our developed world, such as scurvy, would become more common.

Loss of Important Plants

Many plants not only rely on bees to pollinate their crops but also to survive. While some plants can be pollinated by insects such as butterflies and beetles, bees do the job most efficiently. If the world no longer had bees, we’d consequently lose many of the plants that we use for food. As plants die, so would some animals that rely on particular species. For example, cattle that we use for meat and milk primarily feed on lupins and alfalfa, both of which require pollination. Many medications that we use for health and pain relief are also plant-based. For example, morphine, a powerful pain-killer, is extracted from opium poppies. Humans who rely on certain plant-based medications would have to look elsewhere for treatment. It’s easy to see that there are many, many reasons why we need bees!