Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
If bees became extinct, what effect would this have on mankind? © iStock

If bees became extinct, what effect would this have on mankind?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

If you think bee-lieve they're only good for making honey then you can buzz right off!

Asked by: Adam Young, London

Advertisement

You might think it would just be a question of learning to live without honey, but bees play an incredibly important role in agriculture as pollinators. Cereal crops are wind-pollinated but virtually all fruit and many vegetables are insect-pollinated, overwhelmingly by bees. Without bees, crop yields would fall off dramatically. It's estimated that one-third of all the food we eat relies on bees for its production. That includes virtually every fruit you might make into jam, but finding something to put on your toast would be the least of your worries.

Over evolutionary timescales, other insects would probably take over the empty ecological niche but in the short term you could expect the apple, orange, coffee, chocolate and rapeseed oil industries to collapse. This wouldn't be an extinction-level event for humans, but it would cause widespread economic hardship and possibly famine until alternative cultivation systems and crops could be developed.

Read more:


Advertisement

Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.

Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content