Can we live in a world without bees?

Bumblebee sitting on yellow flowers

What comes to mind when you think of bees? Honey and stings? A vague recollection that they’re in decline and that’s a bad thing? What if they did disappear? Would our lives look any different?

Inspired by Professor Dave Goulson’s talk at the British Science Festival, I share two ways our daily lives could change without bees.

Bare supermarket shelves will be the norm

You pop into the supermarket on the way home from work to grab dinner.  It’s been a long day so you fancy a treat, a dessert, a nice apple crumble perhaps. Instead you are greeted with a bare shelf. No apples and, in fact, not a lot of fruit and vegetables you used to enjoy eating.

In a world without bees the crops reliant on pollination from these flying insects won’t grow. Bare shelves will take the place of those that used to be full.

Robot bees will fly above us

In the absence of bees, tiny drones will take to the skies as artificial pollinators.  In fact, designers have already created RoboBees to collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another.

What’s the problem then if bees go extinct?  Personally, I would rather have bees than tiny drones flying around Planet Earth. Practically, though think of the cost:

‘Roughly 80 million honeybee hives in the world, each containing perhaps 40,000 bees through the spring and summer. That adds up to 3.2 trillion bees. They feed themselves for free, breed for free, and even give us honey as a bonus. What would the cost be of replacing them with robots? Even if the robots could be built, complete with power pack and control devices, for one penny each (which seems absurdly optimistic) it would cost £32 billion to build them.’ Professor Dave Goulson

Bees going extinct?  This is just fantasy – surely, it’s not likely to happen?

Wrong. Given current trends, it’s a very real possibility. Since 2000 the Great Yellow Bumblebee is no longer found in England and Wales.

But there is hope. Actions we take can help protect bees. Professor Goulson recommends the following four actions.

1. Mow Less

Leave the lawn to grow.  If you need an excuse to be lazy, this is it. This will allow clovers and dandelions to grow. Delicious food for a bee.

2. Engage Children

Professor Goulson expressed the importance of working in schools to promote the understanding of bees and their environment. Increasing sustainability knowledge ensures future generations are engaged from a young age with the challenges our planet faces.

This is exactly the kind of work that Solutions for the Planet does. If you want your business or school to be involved, you can find out more here.

3. Citizen Science

Get involved with a local group in your community to find out what’s going on with the bees in your area and put into place steps to protect them.  A quick internet search will show what’s happening in your local area or you could even start your own group.

4. Grow the right flowers

Think cottage garden plants rather than palms. Dog roses rather than more modern rose varieties. The aim is to create a nice buffet for your neighbourhood bees rather than an empty plate.

What small step could you take today? It doesn’t have to be huge but as Professor Goulson says ‘Perhaps if we learn to save a bee today, we can save the world tomorrow?’


Written by: Charlotte Hosier, S4TP Programme Coordinator, South East

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solutions for the Planet Ltd.