Monoculture farming promotes the spread of parasites in bees.
Scientists have discovered another way modern farming techniques kill bee populations.
While pesticides have long been blamed for the decline of pollinators, a study published in Proiding of the Royal Society B on Tuesday found that mass-flowering of single plant species increases the spread of bee populations infected with parasites.
Monoculture farming – which involves growing only one type of crop per hour on a specific farm – is a common agricultural practice, particularly in the U.S., with approximately 440 million acres cultivated for monoculture. But one of the consequences of the practice is that landscapes without natural habitat suddenly experience flowering events and have negative effects on bees, according to the study.
Researchers at the University of Oregon analyzed 1,509 bees in sunflower fields and non-crop flowering habitats in California’s Central Valley, found that when crops bloom for a short time in a wide space, events can combine pollinator species together, which then results in higher rates of bees being infected with parasites while in contact with each other.
Monoculture landscapes are attractive to bees because of the massive pollen and nectar provided by flowers that bloom at the same time, the researchers said. While mass flowering events have the potential to provide immune and nutritional benefits to bees, they have instead been linked to higher rates of parasites and pathogens that cause disease in bees, Hamutahl Cohen , a researcher at the University of Oregon’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution and one of the study’s authors, told ABC News.
“We have an incredible amount of biodiversity in this world,” Cohen said. “And we’re seeing that wildlife is declining, and one of the main drivers of the decline is disease.”
While in many ways changing landscapes are necessary to feed the growing population, Cohen described flowering crops as “doorknobs of the bee world” as bees go from flower to flower to collect food. in the middle of their daily routine.
“It’s just like something someone is holding on to a doorknob,” he said. “We all know this, because of the pandemic … if you have a cold and you touch a doorknob, and someone else comes and touches that doorknob, they can get sick.”
Scientists suggest that farmers stop practicing monoculture farming, which is often in “highly endangered areas” such as California’s Central Valley, which has seen an “incredible amount” of homelessness. for the past 100 years, Cohen said.
However, the fate of the bees is not at stake, Cohen said. In farms where farmers have tried the call to implement pieces of perennial plants, bee infestation is more likely to be attributed to parasitism due to the increasing diversity of flowers.
While Cohen was not surprised to see an improved rate of parasitism in bees and monoculture farming systems, he was surprised to see how effective the planting of non-flowering flowers was for conservation efforts.
“It has not only weakened the impact of combining them,” he said. “It really reverses the effects.”
Perennial plants are often selected for characteristics such as drought tolerance and suitability for pollinators, Cohen said, adding that there may be “economic barriers” to changing the landscape in implementing conservation skills.