Yet new research brings new hope for crop owners.
In an upending turn of events, a new paper published in September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) sheds groundbreaking light on what was thought to be a hopeless situation. A Smithsonian scientist now says that there is, in fact, a way we can save the bees and the coffee along with them.
Yes, it will take some forethought and preparation, but the future might not be as bleak as was once predicted.
David Roubik is an entomologist and senior staff scientist for ecology, behavior, and evolution at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. He has an intense interest in the plight of both bees and coffee beans. Initial fears about coffee extinction were, Roubik believes, premature, due to new information that’s been gathered about different growing regions. He writes:
“Think of a pup tent. The area of the slanted top is a lot more than the base. But the modelers were looking at the area as if it was just the base.”
It turns out, tropical bees are extremely resilient.
Initially, it was thought that with the rise in climate temperature, all types of bees would die off, leaving large crops to go without pollination and struggling because of it. Not so, says Roubik. In the paper he co-authored, he states that even if some bee species don’t make it, it’s projected that at least five others will thrive. The most useful, if dangerous, species will be the Killer Bee.
The key to saving coffee and other commercial crops is good planning.
More specifically, giving bees like the Killer Bee an ideal or close-to-ideal habitat to live in will be essential to ensuring large amounts of pollination on crops like coffee. Roubik thinks that farmers will adapt by planting adequate types of trees in new locations, thereby attracting the necessary little pollinators that tend to flourish in Central and South America.
Bees can't live on crops alone. They'll need year-round help from us.
The emphasis here seems to be that bees and humans will have to work together to adapt to any future climate change. As their surroundings change in temperature, farmers will need to move planting grounds to new spots, and also make sure that proper trees are set up to flourish. As it turns out, bees need a year-round pollination source. Temporarily pollinating crops won’t do it, so establishing enough trees is paramount.