You have a bee to thank for every 1 in 3 bites of food consumed, the US Department of Agriculture says. If bees are totally extinct, it would cause widespread hardship, and possibly famine for humankind. This is because bees play a vital role in the global food supply, pollinating crops which feed 90% of the world’s population.

If all the bees died, a lot of the foods we regularly consume wouldn’t be available anymore. Apart from honey, some nuts and beans would also disappear forever as they are so reliant on bees.

Blueberries and cherries would suffer as they are 90% dependent on honey bee pollination. Other foods such as avocados, apples, berries, grapefruit, melons, broccoli, cucumbers and snap peas would also be affected, says a report in the Daily Mail (7 August 2019).

Many medicines humans use, both conventional and alternative, would also be lost as they are derived from flowering plants. And wildlife which rely on bees, such as birds and small mammals, could become extinct if they were no longer around.

But bee numbers are declining at an alarming rate across the globe. As of March 2020, there have been 8 species of bee put on the endangered species list, including 2 types of bumblebee. This does not include honeybees.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, “Present species extinction rates (for bees and other pollinators) are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. Changes in land use and landscape structure, intensive agricultural practices, monocultures and use of pesticides have led to large-scale losses, fragmentation and degradation of their habitats.”

Albert Einstein is often credited with saying: “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have 4 years left to live.” There is no evidence the German genius actually said this, but the message is dire.

What you can do: Make pollinator-friendly choices. “Even growing flowers at home to feed bees contributes to this effort, says José Graziano da Silva, FAO’s director general.