A nutritious diet can help humans achieve their full potential by providing energy, mental clarity, and physical strength.
What about bees?
The Argentina-based startup BeeFlow has developed a nutritious formula for bees to test out this question — and its results have been promising.
Bees that consume the formula, made of sugar, water, and proprietary ingredients, are significantly more productive. In fact, bees on the formula can make seven times more trips in cold weather than bees subsisting on a standard diet, and can carry twice as much pollen, Bloomberg reports. Farmers who use the formula have reported crop yield gains of 20% to 90%, according to BeeFlow.
This new method of turbocharging the insects comes amid a widespread decline in bee populations around the world. Bees and other animals pollinate an estimated 35% of crops grown worldwide, and around two-thirds of the crops consumed by humans rely on bee pollination, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Bees also help to pollinate the majority of the planet’s wild plants, which support healthy ecosystems.
In the US, bees support around $20 billion in agricultural output.
Over the past decade, beekeepers in the US and Europe have reported annual bee colony losses of 30% to 50%. A phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which a bee colony gets wiped out, has become common in recent years. Scientists believe the rise in the use of a specific class of pesticides called neonicotinoids is responsible for colony collapse.
Climate change creates other threats for bees. As temperatures rise, some areas are becoming too hot for the insects. Flowers stressed by climate change are beginning to release different signals that confuse bees.
"Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides use, biodiversity loss and pollution," said José Graziano da Silva, FAO's Director-General, in a video message recorded for World Bee Day on May 20. "The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes, and cocoa, to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination. Countries need to shift to more pollinator-friendly and sustainable food policies and systems."
This Argentinian startup could double the amount of pollen bees can carry and improve their immune systems pic.twitter.com/CMFcVKgbYQ— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) September 22, 2019
Declining bee populations have made crop yields more unpredictable and have driven up the costs of raising and renting bees, according to CNN.
BeeFlow is aiming to address these challenges by creating bees with stronger immune systems that can better withstand hostile conditions. Almond farmers, in particular, could benefit from the BeeFlow formula. Almond trees can only be pollinated during colder months when bees are normally averse to traveling. BeeFlow bees, meanwhile, can efficiently pollinate in cold weather.
“We think that with healthier bees and then with a stronger immune system, bees can work better and perform better," Matias Viel, CEO of BeeFlow told CNN.