At this point, most of us climate change believers are well aware of the symbiotic relationship between bees and a healthy environment. Despite their tiny stature, they play an outsized role in pollinating roughly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants and three quarters of the world’s crops. Without a steady population of busy bees, we can kiss our vital flora and fauna goodbye.
You might think that because of their immense size and thick leathery hide, elephants wouldn’t mind bees the way human beings do. But, as it turns out, the tender insides of an elephant’s trunk and soft tissue around their eyes render pachyderms just as perturbed by the prospect of painful bee stings as the rest of us—so much so that many elephants steer clear of an area if they even hear the sound of bees buzzing.
Bees are disappearing all over the place. For years, scientists and apiarists have sought the cause of mass bee die-offs in the United States and Europe. And while many won’t miss the occasional uncomfortable sting from the little buzzers, they certainly will miss the $16 billion in American crops those bees pollinate every year. A number of supportable theories to explain the bee slump have been put forth—parasites, disease, loss of habitat to encroaching urbanization—but proving a single cause of the situation has remained elusive. Now, a new paper, published last month in Science, might tell us why.