Japan recently imported several colonies of bumblebees to combat its declining bee population. Japan recently imported several colonies of bumblebees to combat its declining bee population. Japan recently imported several colonies of bumblebees to combat its declining bee population. (Photo: VladimirE /Shutterstock)

Why did Japan import a bunch of bumblebees?

Pesticide use in rice fields has decreased the country’s bee population.

Bees are a necessary part of the agricultural process, but the worldwide bee population is on the decline. Due to an increased use of pesticides in its rice fields, Japan has lost a large portion of its bumblebee population. So what did the Japanese do? They had bees imported, of course.

Several colonies of bees, each containing a queen bee and 50 worker bees from Israel’s BioBee firm, recently flew to Japan to help out. BioBee breeds bumblebees specifically for pollination – they don’t produce honey – and the bees will fulfill their mission to pollinate fruits, veggies and flowers rain or shine. They are also known for their mild temperament and don’t often sting humans working alongside them.

The bees traveled in spacious hives equipped with a small bag of sugar water in a special drinking facility, and upon arrival in Japan were delivered to greenhouses in farms through the country.

“Wild bumblebees are important pollinators of agricultural crops such as blueberry, apple, pumpkin and tomato, and declines in this ecosystem service of pollination could lead to lower crop yields and higher food costs, with consequences for both our food supply and the economy,” University of Vermont biologist Leif Richardson recently told Reuters.

BioBee has been mass-producing bumblebees for about 30 years, first developed as part of a push toward organic farming in northern Israel. The advantage of this particular Bombus terrestris is that they tend to stay inside a closed greenhouse, instead of flying out to other nearby fields to continue the pollination process.

The company previously sent fruit flies to Croatia to help pollinate citrus orchards, and has also has sent bees to India to help fight a pest problem in that country. BioBee says each country it works with represents its own unique challenge, and therefore has developed a large network of subsidiaries in countries like Colombia, Chile and Russia.

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