30 September, 2022


Are The Populations Of Bees & Butterflies Declining?

By Chandre Dharmawardana

Dr. Chandre Dharmawardana

There are always intermittent reports and circulation of petitions about the loss of bee populations, butterfly populations, fire-fly populations etc and evident environmental damage. These reports are never accompanied by entomological surveys of insect populations and other relevant data.

Instead, it will claim that the reader in his/her childhood days saw many butterflies, bees and fireflies, while today this is not the case. Of course, many people who had a rural childhood live today in crowded urban jungles enmeshed with roads choked with traffic. Why would they expect to see butterflies in a concrete jungle?

According to a comprehensive review article by Prof. David Goulson (Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor at the University of Cambridge), and his colleagues,  the honey bee populations in the world have INCREASED by 40% over the last decade.

See the research article in the famous journal “Science”, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science: Science. 2015 Mar 27;347(6229):1255957.   

What has decreased is the population of WILD BEES. Some species of butterflies (e.g., Monarch butterfly) have also decreased due to the removal of specific flowering plants (Milkweed or “Varaa” in Sinhala,) due to urbanization and cutting down of forest.

1. This loss of wild bees is mostly due to LOSS of HABITAT due to people felling forests and building houses and roads. This reduces the amount of forest and bush available for wild bees, butterflies  and indeed all flora and fauna. Even the elephant population in the Sinharaja has now been reduced to just two elephants – this is NOT due to glyphosate or pesticide use.

Haphazard urbanization should be stopped, and the existing Forests must be preserved and forest cover MUST BE increased. Roads passing through forest reserves must NOT be build. Much of waste farmland should be returned to forest instead of dredging and building houses. But even the Wilpattu has been razed for building human habitations, ostensibly for “war-displaced Muslims”.

2. Furthermore, human populations and urbanization help the growth of parasites which harm bees. The noxious fumes from motor vehicules, diesel engines, farm tractors, electronic and mining industries, coal-power plants etc., burning of garbage, increased particulate dust are  vital factors producing extreme environmental stress on bees and butterflies.

3. The excessive use of pesticides has also been mentioned, but The chief entomologist of the primary agricultural Research institute in Britain (Rothamstead Research Inst.) has stated that there is no clear evidence that

no-necotinoids are a cause of wild-bee decline.

Glyphosate acts on  green plants, and have no direct impact on fauna, insects and other zoo-species. In fact it is known to encourage the growth of soil microbes, earthworms etc. Its impact is only on plant-species as the mode of action of glyphosate is to interfere with photosynthesis (i.e., living species having chlorophyll). Bees don’t have chlorophyll and are unaffected  by glyphosate.

Such herbicides are used to control weeds and this may lead to a reduction of some weeds useful to wild bees. But usual planted species (e.g., tomatoes, tea bushes) also provide flowers that are valuable to wild bees and so there is a compensating effect as long as flowering plants are used in farmlands which often tend to be mono-cultures (e.g., vast extensions of corn fields).

Plantations which are mono-cultures are not ecologically balanced.

Most knowledgeable farmers  inter-space their crops with strips of flowering plants, herbs, legumes  etc.,  to help desirable insect populations and soil microbes.

Many of the so-called environmental groups  are unwitting instruments in the hands of certain neo-liberal advocacy groups. They are  targeting our

food supply because of their hidden agenda to push forward “organic food” and reduce the world food supply and diminish the world population by starving out the third world.

They have ignore the items 1 and 2 which threaten wild-bee populations. Instead, they have concentrated ONLY on herbicides like glyphosate that have NO direct effect on bees, while the indirect effects are utterly negligible compared to items 1 and 2.  They nearly succeeded in banning glyphosate in Sri Lanka even though 192 of the 195 countries in the world fully approve of the use of glyphosate in agriculture.

So banning glyphosate or (no-nicotinides used for eliminating mealy bugs in potatoes and such crops) will NOT eliminate the primary cause of the decline of wild bees, butterflies and other useful WILD insects. 

Moving away from potato and meat diets, and moving to rice diets and vegetarianism, together with a sharp reduction in the use of fossil-fuel based motor vehicules, and stopping sprawling urbanization, stabilization of the rising human population are essential to saving the threatened environment as well as its threatened insect populations.

The reason why rice diets are preferred to potato diets is explained in my most recent research article on the implications of the use of fertilizers on the health of water, soil, and the food supply. (Environmental Geochemistry and Health: June 2018 “Fertilizer usage and cadmium in soils, crops and food“).

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Why you worry about bees and butterflies?
    While human beings in Sri Lanka go on Hungary?
    How many families do not have food?..
    How many children do not have cloths?
    How many youth do not have jobs ?.
    The entire country is sold out to China ?
    Loans and interest we need to pay for for next 10 years ..
    Country is crying for a good political leader to make a difference .
    You are worried about bees?.it looks you live in a different world.?

    • 1

      Butterflies and bees are needed to pollinate corps, fruit trees, and all plants.
      The day bees and butterflies disappear human beings and their food chain also disappear.

      This article explains very clearly how the sprawling urbanization, diesel fumes etc are destroying the environment. However, instead of addressing these issues arising from the loss of habitat, the misguided “activists” are attacking glyphosate, fertilizers etc.

      It is useless to argue that herbicides remove weeds which have flowers. Even if herbicides are not used, but if the weeds are removed by hand, then too, flowers needed for bees and butterflies will be destroyed.

      Of course, Venarable Ratana and the Natha Deiyyo click will continue to tell us that
      glyphosate is a terrible poison, while almost ALL countries in the world use use glyphosate as a safe effective herbicide.

    • 0

      Hay Lankan

      Do you want to know why Lankans go hungry?

      Do you know that bees and butterflies are as ESSENTIAL to the farmer as water and land are essential?

      How can the country have good political leaders if the citizens are utterly ignorant.

    • 0

      what an ignorant fool you are disgracing all Lankans by calling yourself ‘Lankans’

  • 1

    “Are The Populations Of Bees & Butterflies Declining?”
    Chandre Dharmawardana posed the question to give the Chandre answer. He says “No”.
    The man quotes Prof. David Goulson (Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor at the University of Cambridge), and his colleagues, the honey bee populations in the world have INCREASED by 40% over the last decade.
    Chandre: It is the domesticated honey bee. Recently honey farmers have lost thousands of hives virtually overnight. They attribute this to pesticides.
    Chandre accepts that wild bee population has decreased. The man then goes on to say that the elephant population in Sinharaja is down to two not because of glyphosate.
    Chandre is holding a banner, “I am a climate-change skeptic. Multi-nationals please note”.
    Good luck. Do not come back.

    • 0

      Interesting how Pillai claims that all this has to do with climate-change skepticism?

      Even climate change is driven by humans burning fossile fuels, which is the top item mentioned by this author as a factor acting on bee and butterfly populations..

      Honey bee populations have increased, but wild bees, bumble bees etc have drastically decreased, almost in proportion to increased human encroachment. This was also found in a recent study in Poland that I know of, carried by the University of Krakow.

    • 1

      Pillai probably wants to hear that bees and butterflies are disappearing because of agrochemicals. That is a common
      belief which seems to be not quite correct.

      I too believed that until I read this author. So this is an EYE OPENER.

      I can well believe that habitat loss and encroaching of humans into the wilderness are causes of decline of WILD bees and Butterflies.
      I can also believe that car and diesel fumes kill off bees and butterflies.

      But how do you explain the INCREASE in honey bee populations?

      • 0

        Indeed, how do you explain the INCREASE in honey bee populations.
        I think as urbanization occurs, horticultured spaces and bee keeping business increases and so there are more honey bees.
        While this helps to pollinate many plants and fruit trees, the honey bees are NOT
        capable o pollinating many valuable crops. Thus honey bees cannot pollinate tomatoes. You need bumble bees or other types of wild bees for tomatoes and many other vegetables and fruits.
        So we can’t afford to loose wild bee populations. England imports wild bees from eastern Europe to maintain its agricultural system intact!

  • 2

    90 year old Big ‘B’s are swarming especially strong after the glyphosate ban was lifted for tea and rubber.

    Hope they will not fall sick due to Kidney or liver cancer, or Non-Hodgkin lymphoma they are giving the poor farmers of Sri Lanka.

    • 1

      To Bogus Bodhi from Quebec
      Can you find even one person who has got Kidney or Liver cancer from Glyphosate?
      Farmers use glyphosate for about three days during each season, but Tea Planters and vegetable growers use it virtually every day. Are there kidney patients in the tea country or among vegetable growers?
      How come the study of 90,000 farmers for over a period of 25 years showed no signs of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney disease etc?
      Even the IARC-WHO has retracted their claims in a May 16, 2016
      press release in Geneva.

      These “illnesses” are all found in the imaginary world of the internet where NGOs working for organic food chains are trying to frighten the public and make them by their expensive, elitist food.

      The bogus political platform built up by the Not-so-Venerable Rantana (duty-free Car Mudalali) using Naatha Devio to frighten the public about glyphosate and arsenic has collapsed.

      He is giving up his post with the president as a koota updeshaka, but retaining his back-door MP post to continue to sell cars.

  • 2

    I don’t appreciate your calling me ‘Bogus’. I am a science educator, journalist and a Monsanto pusher (like you) to my boot laces, from Quebec. I am sorry you have forgotten the support I gave you to your earlier items on this in Colombo Telegraph. How are you so sure that I am bogus?

    Anyway, I have recently found out that Rev Rathana and the NGOs are working for no financial reward, but due to sympathy for the ose who are getting sick, not like us (wink, winkl)..

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