Environmental impact of human actions on bee and pollinator health

By Sabiha Malik

Founder of The World Bee Project CIC

Human actions are responsible for the two most significant environmental changes (habitat fragmentation and loss). These changes have led to nearly 1 in 10 wild bee species facing extinction in Europe.

Wild bees and honeybees perform about 80 % of all pollination worldwide. The wind primarily pollinates grains which provide us with calories. Still, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, which we rely on for their nutritional value, are pollinated by bees. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 90% of the world’s nutrition comes from seventy of the 100 human food crops pollinated by bees.

Humans are causing pollinator declines.

Scientists have found that bees and pollinator populations are declining from various interacting and interrelated factors caused by human actions. As land is converted into industrialised monoculture farms, habitats are fragmented and destroyed. The nectar and pollen resources bees and pollinators need to survive become limited or disappear.

Furthermore, industrialised agriculture uses toxic pesticides and fertilisers, which researchers have found to destroy bee health. Bees do not die immediately, but the neonicotinoids affect their nervous systems and accumulate in the entire colony, including the honey bees feeding their larvae. As a result, bee colonies become weaker and weaker and fall victim to pathogens and invasive species until they cannot cope and die.

Other pressing threats to long-term bee survival include:

  • Low genetic diversity.
  • Pathogens are spread by commercially managed bees.
  • The effects of long-distance transportation of bee colonies (for commercially managed pollination as in the Californian almond orchards).
  • A lack of varied nectar and pollen resources.

Human activities are primarily responsible for the two most significant environmental changes – habitat fragmentation and loss which drive pollinator declines. Without pollinators, our food and nutrition security will be at risk. In addition, the plant species pollinated by bees will disappear, threatening the survival of nature, human well-being, social stability, and national economies.


The solution

Scientists tell us that to stabilise food production, protect bees and pollinators and restore wild habitats; we need to reduce the environmental impact of human actions and opt for making sustainable use of natural resources an essential strategy for governments and businesses worldwide. The way forward is to move from industrialised agriculture to ‘ecologically intensified’ agriculture which supports ecosystem services management and improves bee health, restores the diversity and density of bee populations and improves pollination, which enhances crop yields and food and nutrition security.

Science is incontrovertible. Environmental degradation is already having a profoundly damaging effect on our societies, economies, and international relations.

When risks converge, so do opportunities. We can but hope policymakers, business, and corporate leaders with the authority and power to implement transformative change will transcend their clashing interests and speed up decision-making.


Sabiha Malik founded The World Bee Project CIC in 2014 to utilise AI and novel technologies to initiate a global perspective, addressing pollinator and biodiversity decline, food insecurity, climate change and threats to human wellbeing as a single interactive, interconnected challenge confronting humanity. Sabiha believes that bees lie at the heart of the relationships that bind the natural and human worlds, and in safeguarding bees lies the means to safeguard life itself.