Bug Blog

The Economics of the Birds and the Bees

The Economics of the Birds and the Bees

Most of us don’t give insects a second thought, unless they are a nuisance that means putting on repellent or calling the exterminator.  They have a negative image that is wholly inaccurate, as most bugs are helpful to humankind and many are necessary for our existence.

The bee die-off has been front page news because their demise could devastate our agricultural production. Pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies are key players in preparing food crops.

Both domesticated (farmed) and wild bees are dying off, but more attention has been given to the domestic kind, since over half of farmed colonies have disappeared in a single year.

Wild bees also do a lot of pollinating, but oddly, only two percent of the known wild bee species pollinate 80% of our crops.

Why should this matter?

The reasoning goes like this: if only a few bees are critical for human survival (food production), why worry about conserving all the rest?  Or, for that matter, why worry about conserving any animal that hasn’t shown a direct economic value to mankind?

The simple answer to this leading question is because we don’t fully understand the complexity of ecosystems.  One type of bee may not pollinate food crops, but may pollinate a plant that is critical to some other species that is – even more indirectly – necessary for our survival.  We also don’t have a map of biodiversity that is detailed enough to predict the future.

Experts emphasize that issues of conservation and biodiversity must be considered from more than just an economic viewpoint.