All across the world there are countless species of bees that have adapted to different climates and conditions. Despite sharing many basic characteristics, they have adopted unique physical and behavioral traits due to their unique habitats.
The Apis cerana is a species of honey bee native to Asia, with a range extending from the eastern region of Japan to the western boundaries of Asia in Afghanistan (Egelie, Ashley A, et al., “Apis cerana”). Due to their wide range, they can survive in many different ecosystems. These bees have many similar characteristics to those of Apis mellifera, which is a western honey bee species found in the U.S., however, they have more pronounced stripes on the back of their abdomen. Their body size can vary based on their geographic location, due to the wide habitat ranges they can survive in.
However, native Asian bee populations are dramatically decreasing, due to the extensive amount of pollution from greenhouse gases, pesticide use, and other forms of pollution. (Casey Williams, “Effect of Shrinking Bee Populations”). The practice of favoring short-term profits by using artificial chemicals over long-term, sustainable solutions will lead to further deterioration of China’s native bee population and a reduction in agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the introduction of European honey bees to local China has led to the transmission of many contagious diseases that have devastated local bee populations, which in turn has increased the use of pesticides. According to the South China Morning Post, “an estimated 80 percent of China’s native Honey Bee population has been lost since the introduction of European honey bees in the 19th century.”
Currently, due to China’s low labor costs, many farmers in rural, underdeveloped provinces are now pollinating their crops by hand. The cost of renting Asian and Western bees for crop pollination might be too high for many farmers, due to the increasing demand for them and the increased rarity of said bees. Farmers are forced to painstakingly pollinate their crops themselves.
With bees edging ever closer towards extinction all across the world, it is crucial that we take positive, sustainable steps towards preventing further population decline and that we nurture native bee and other pollinator populations and protect them where they currently survive. As labor costs rise in China and other agricultural hubs in developing countries, it is necessary that bees and other pollinators are protected not just to protect biodiversity and create a more sustainable environment, but also to maintain stable living conditions for agricultural workers in such countries.
For ways to help bees in your local area, check out this link. It’s time to bee the change you want to see!
Williams, Casey. “Photos Capture The Startling Effect Of Shrinking Bee Populations.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Apr. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/humans-bees-china_us_570404b3e4b083f5c6092ba9.
Egelie, Ashley A, et al. “Apis Cerana.” Entomology and Nematology Department, University of Florida, Jan. 2015, entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/Apis_cerana.htm
Chen, Stephen. “Why China's Asian Honeybees Are Losing out to Their Western Peers.” South China Morning Post, South China Morning Post, 12 June 2017, www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2083725/why-chinas-asian-honeybees-are-losing-out-their-western.
Semhur. “Wikimedia Commons.” Wikimedia Commons, 23 Feb. 2011, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f4/Apis_cerana_distribution_map.svg/1600px-Apis_cerana_distribution_map.svg.png.
Rushen. “Apis Cerana, Asiatic Honey Bee - Khao Yai National Park.” Wikimedia Commons, 30 Jan. 2013, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fb/Apis_cerana%2C_Asiatic_honey_bee_-_Khao_Yai_National_Park.jpg/1599px-Apis_cerana%2C_Asiatic_honey_bee_-_Khao_Yai_National_Park.jpg.
Written by Christopher Li
Planet Bee Editorial Intern