How much is a bee worth? Ecosystem Services

Insects pollinate almost a 1/3 of our food and provide this service for free! So why are they not factored into the GDP, an economic number giving an estimate of our countries total economic output every quarter? How much would it cost us if bees were to disappear, which is happening to a degree right now.

This GDP fails to account for the billions of dollars of FREE services that nature provides, which impacts policy makers who tend to only look at numbers. These free services are called Ecosystem Services and include things we take for granted like clean air, carbon sequestration, climate regulation, pollination and seed dispersal – to name a few.

The BIG question is how much would it cost us if nature were not there to perform these services? Scientists are trying to figure this out the cost of these services. One study wanted to highlight an estimate of the total output of insects in the United States – $57 Billion. This is a conservative estimate and ONLY for the United States. Without insects, the authors note, human life on earth would eventually be extinguished.

Here is a breakdown of some of the services by economic value:

Value of crop production from pollination by native insects: $3 billion

Crop losses averted by beneficial insects from predation or parasitism of agricultural pests: $4.5 billion

Percent of native pests controlled by other insects: $65 million

Economic losses averted every year by burial of livestock waste by dung beetles: $380 million

Amount spent for hunting, fishing and observing wildlife that relies on insects as a food resource: $50 billion

Number of North American bird species that are primarily insectivores: $395 million

So, how much is a bee worth to us? Priceless.

Source: BioScience, April 2006, reprinted in Scientific American July 2006