This Paper Is Designed to Feed Bees

Saatchi and Saatchi IS
Saatchi and Saatchi IS

The world's bees are in danger. Pesticides, disease, and habitat and food source loss have caused bee populations to dwindle for years. To bring back these vital pollinators, one company is proposing an unusual solution: paper.

The biodegradable Bee Saving Paper is made with glucose and contains seeds from the bee-feeding flower lacy phacelia (also known as purple tansy). Launched by the Warsaw-based marketing agency Saatchi and Saatchi IS and City Bees, an organization that advocates for bees in urban communities, the paper is also covered in a biodegradable UV paint that, to bees, looks like a meadow full of pollen sources.

And image of honey jars with Bee Saving Paper labels divided in half to see the visible light vs. UV-ray views.
Łukasz Kaczorowski's honey jars
Saatchi and Saatchi IS

The idea is that bees will land on the paper, grab a glucose snack—similar to what beekeepers feed their hives to help them survive the winter—and fly away. The company describes the paper as being "like an energy drink for bees" to help them fly farther on their journeys to find food. As counterintuitive as it seems, the paper is designed not to be used and recycled, but left out in nature. The paper will eventually fully biodegrade, leaving behind seeds that will grow into the kinds of flowers bees love.

The paper could be used in paper plates, bags, coffee cup sleeves, or other disposable products (though the creators don't really say how that might work—would the bees come up and land on your coffee cup?). A Polish beekeeper named Łukasz Kaczorowski is already using it for honey-jar labels.

When it comes to helping bee populations increase, these sheets are a small-scale intervention whose results remain to be seen. But bees can use all the help they can get.

More Than Half of Wild Coffee Species Could Go Extinct

iStock.com/Alfribeiro
iStock.com/Alfribeiro

Your morning cup of coffee is under threat. A study published today in Science Advances asserts that a majority of the world’s wild coffee species are at risk of extinction. The main two types we rely on for our caffeine fix—arabica and robusta beans—are both threatened by climate change and deforestation.

The team of UK-based researchers used Red List of Threatened Species criteria from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to classify the risks facing the world’s 124 known species of wild coffee. About 60 percent of them—or 75 different species—face possible extinction in the coming decades. This represents “one of the highest levels recorded for a plant group,” researchers write in their paper.

Partly to blame are the severe droughts associated with climate change, as well as deforestation. Other threats include the spread of fungal pathogens and coffee wilt disease in Central and South America and Africa, respectively, as well as social and economic factors for growers.

“Considering threats from human encroachment and deforestation, some [coffee species] could be extinct in 10 to 20 years, particularly with the added influence of climate change," lead author Aaron P. Davis, of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, tells CNN.

Davis’s previous research stressed that arabica, which is already listed as an endangered species, could be extinct within 60 years. Most of the coffee plants we rely on are farmed, but wild coffee is no less important. Some wild species are resistant to disease and have other useful genes that could be introduced to commercial crops. That way, the cultivated varieties might endure the effects of climate change better and stick around a little longer.

Consumers aren’t the only ones concerned, either. Coffee farming is an industry that supports about 100 million workers around the world. One way of conserving the plants is to store their seeds and genes, but Hanna Neuschwander, the director of communications for the industry group World Coffee Research, tells Mashable that these seed banks aren’t well established yet. For now, the focus is on preserving the plants themselves.

Elephants Are Evolving Without Tusks Thanks to Poaching

iStock.com/LeighGregg
iStock.com/LeighGregg

Natural selection can take millions of years to shape a gene pool, but in parts of Africa, the extreme pressures of poaching may have changed elephants in just a few decades. As National Geographic reports, more tuskless elephants have emerged in regions where their ivory has made them a target.

Elephant poaching has long been in a problem Africa, but the crisis reached a fever pitch during Mozambique's 15-year civil war. Between 1977 and 1992, 90 percent of the elephants living in the country's Gorongosa National Park were slaughtered for ivory used to fund the conflict.

The diminished numbers aren't the only thing that looks different about Gorongosa's elephants today. Poachers often kill male elephants first because they have bigger tusks, and once they're eliminated, the hunters will go after females. Typically, about 2 to 4 percent of all female African elephants never develop tusks—but among female elephants that survived Mozambique's civil war, that number is 51 percent. The effects of poaching can also be observed in the next generation. Roughly 32 percent of female elephants born after 1992 are tuskless.

The trend can be seen in other parts of Africa where poaching has ravaged elephant populations. In Ruaha National Park in Tanzania, elephant behavior researcher Josephine Smit has observed that over one fifth of female elephants older than 5 years lack tusks. Tusklessness rates reach about 35 percent in females over 25.

The statistics are even harder to ignore in South Africa's Addo Elephant National Park, where tuskless animals made up 98 percent of all female elephants in the early 2000s. South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, Lupande Game Management Area in Zambia, and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda each reported higher-than-average rates of tusklessness immediately following the ivory wars of the 1970s and '80s.

Though poaching is on the decline thanks to bans on the ivory trade and other conservation efforts in Africa, its impact can still be felt. In East Africa, the elephant population was nearly halved between 2008 and 2018. The establishment of wildlife preserves, DNA tracing, and GPS tracking are just a few of the ways conservationists are working to crack down on poachers and restore the species.

[h/t National Geographic]

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