Which foods are at risk without insects?

With insect populations in steep decline, which of your favourite foods are at risk?
24 August 2021


Food market



As pollinator species decline - are any crops in particular going to suffer?


Dave Goulson predicts that we could be witnessing the insect apocolypse. Listen in to find out which of our supermarket favourites might be the first to go if efforts aren't put in palce to mitigate the decline is insect populations... 

Dave - There are an awful lot actually that aren't included, but roughly three quarters of the crops that we grow in the world need pollination to some extent, meaning that the yield is increased by pollination. So everything from apples and cherries to blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, loads of vegetables, like courgettes and pumpkins and squash and tomatoes and chilli peppers, even coffee and chocolate depend upon insect pollinators. So, I mean, there are an awful lot.

I think actually the one that if I had to pick a crop, which is likely to be the first one to suffer from a shortage of pollinators, it's probably going to be almonds. I say that because 80% of the world's almonds are grown in Northern California in one small region. It's very intensively managed. There are very few wild pollinators. Almost every honey bee hive in North America is shipped to California for the almond pollination in February. And there's just about enough. There's about two and a half million hives taken to California every year. And that's just about adequate to pollinate the almonds. But if anything happens to those honey bees, if there's some, any kind of disease outbreak or anything else, then there won't be enough. And the almond yields will plummet and the price of almonds would go up, which I'm sure we could all cope with, but they would be the first sign of much worse things to come, I'm afraid, including no hot chocolate or coffee.

Eva - Well, it is an absolutely enormous number of hives to ship across. Is that basically all the hives in the US?

Dave - Yeah, absolutely. It's almost every one and they pay, it's about $300 a hive to rent them just for three weeks while the almonds flowering. So, it's a huge business and a big money spinner for the beekeepers. But as I say, it's right on the edge of what's possible. And it seems like we really have put all our eggs in one basket in that particular example.


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