Everyone who knows just a little about bees knows that we would be in a World of shit without them. There would be serious problems and there are serious concerns about the health of bees and bee colonies Worldwide.
Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD) is a real thing and there’s good reason to be scared and not much in the way of real answers for the problem. Lots of speculation, finger-pointing and scientific theories but not much in the way of solid answers.
From an article in the Huffington Post. A Whole Foods store showed what would happen to it’s produce department if there were no bees doing their work.
It’s stunning. Over 50% of the produce dept. disappears – gone.
This is the list of vanished produce —
- Summer squash
- Green onions
- Bok choy
- Broccoli rabe
- Mustard greens
As stunning as that list is the use of a clever image design showing the before and after is even more powerful. The image(s) speak for themselves.
From the article:
Bees are still having a rough time. The British Beekeepers Association said more than a third of colonies died in England this past winter, and U.S. populations suffered similar drops. Researchers have said an industry practice of feeding bees corn syrup may spur colony collapse disorder, which could affect the $30 billion crop industry dependent on bee pollination.
There is an interesting page at the Whole Foods website talking about bees and human dependance. Very informative in a very concise manner. From that page —
The lives of bees and humans are intricately linked. One out of every three bites of food is pollinated by bees and other pollinators. Bees are vital to the reproduction of clover and alfalfa, which feed grazing animals, and to the diverse ecosystems that sustain wildlife.
Throughout human history, bees have been revered for their precision, productivity and communal intelligence…not to mention honey, beeswax, bee pollen, propolis and royal jelly. Egyptian pharaohs inscribed images of bees on royal seals. In Greek mythology, bees were associated with deities and divination..
Reuter’s article on corn Syrup and CCD:
By Richard Valdmanis
BOSTON, June 3 (Reuters) – Bee keepers’ use of corn syrup and other honey substitutes as bee feed may be contributing to colony collapse by depriving the insects of compounds that strengthen their immune systems, according to a study released on Monday.
U.S. bee keepers lost nearly a third of their colonies last winter as part of an ongoing and largely unexplained decline in the population of the crop-pollinating insects that could hurt the U.S. food supply.
A bee’s natural food is its own honey, which contains compounds like p-coumaric acid that appear to help detoxify and strengthen a bee’s immunity to disease, according to a study by scientists at the University of Illinois.
Bee keepers, however, typically harvest and sell the honey produced by the bees and use substitutes like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to feed them.
“The widespread apicultural use of honey substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses,” according to the study, which was published on May 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America said in May that more than 30 percent of America’s managed honeybee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012-13, up sharply from around 22 percent the previous winter but still close to the six-year average. The losses vary year to year, but a huge and prolonged multiyear decline threatens the species and crop pollination.
Honeybees pollinate fruits and vegetables that make up roughly one-quarter of the American diet, and scientists are split over whether pesticides, parasites or habitat loss are mainly to blame for the deaths.
Similar losses have been recorded in Europe where lawmakers have moved to ban three of the world’s most widely used pesticides for two years amid growing criticism from environmental activists.
Agrichemical and pesticide makers like Monsanto, Bayer AG and Syngenta are also launching projects to study and counter colony collapse.
Few deny that pesticides – particularly a class of commonly used insecticides called neonicotinoids – can be harmful to bees in the laboratory. It is unclear what threat the insecticides pose under current agricultural usage. Some scientists say habitat decline and disease-carrying parasites, such as the Varroa mite, are the chief cause of bee deaths.
*Colony Collapse Disorder: A Descriptive Study from PLOS.org
*Honey Bee CCD by Renee Johnson
*USDA the ARS report on CCD at — ars.usda.gov
*A Honeybee sanctuary
*NY Times Science – Bee articles and archives
(1.) From Time/Science&Space by Bryan Walsh, a very informative article:
CCD was first reported in 2006, when commercial beekeepers began noticing that their adult worker honeybees would suddenly flee the hive, ending up dead somewhere else and leading to the rapid loss of the colony. On normal years, commercial beekeepers might expect to lose 10% to 15% of their colony, but over the past five years, mortality rates for commercial operations in the U.S. have ranged from 28% to 33%. Since 2006 an estimated 10 million beehives worth about $200 each have been lost, costing beekeepers some $2 billion. There are now 2.5 million honeybee colonies in the U.S., down from 6 million 60 years ago. And if CCD continues, the consequences for the agricultural economy — and even for our ability to feed ourselves — could be dire. “Currently, the survivorship of honeybee colonies is too low for us to be confident in our ability to meet the pollination demands of U.S. agricultural crops,” the USDA report said.
So what’s causing CCD — and how can we stop it?
The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a single smoking gun behind CCD. The USDA report points at a range of possible causes, including:
- A parasitic mite called Varroa destructor that has often been found in decimated colonies
- Several viruses
- A bacterial disease called European foulbrood that is increasingly being detected in U.S. bee colonies
- The use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, a neuroactive chemical
Since CCD isn’t so much a single disease as it is a collection of symptoms, chances are that some or all of these factors, working in concert, might be behind the disappearance of the honeybees. The presence of the Varroa mite, for instance, can worsen the impact of existing viruses, while the stress of shipping bees back and forth across the country — increasingly common in commercial beekeeping — may be amplifying the stress on the insects and leaving them more vulnerable to CCD. (If you think a cross-country flight is rough on you, just imagine what it’s like for a honeybee hive.) The fact that CCD is increasingly seen in other countries as well gives more weight to the notion that there may be multiple factors at work.
Still, environmentalists have focused most on the potential role of pesticides — especially the powerful neonicotinoids — and some lab studies have found that the chemicals can adversely affect bee health. It’s not that the pesticides — which are aimed at other insects — are killing the bees outright, but rather that sublethal exposure in nectar and pollen may be interfering with the honeybees’ internal radar, preventing them from gathering pollen and returning safely to the hive.
The USDA report mostly withholds judgment on neonicotinoids, citing the need for more research, and the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a very slow review of the evidence. Last week, though, the E.U., which is also grappling with CCD, decided it was done waiting, and announced a two-year ban on neonicotinoids. The European Commission enacted the ban on the recommendation of the European Food Safety Authority, which said in January that the pesticides should be restricted until scientists had cleared the chemicals of a role in CCD.
The chemical industry, unsurprisingly, disputes the finding. Bayer CropScience, a major pesticide manufactuer, said in a statement after the ban was announced:
As a science-based company, Bayer CropScience is disappointed that clear scientific evidence has taken a backseat in the decisionmaking process. This disproportionate decision is a missed opportunity to reach a solution that takes into consideration all of the existing product-stewardship measures and broad stakeholder concerns. The further reduction of effective crop-protection products will put at risk farmers’ ability to tackle important pests that can severely restrict their ability to grow high-quality food.
As Brad Plumer pointed out over at the Washington Post, it’s not that the E.U. necessarily has more evidence about the role that the chemicals might be playing in CCD. This is a classic case of policymaking by the precautionary principle. The pesticides are considered guilty until proven innocent, and so they’re preventively banned, even before the scientific case is rock solid. That’s not unusual for European environmental regulation, especially in regard to chemicals. In the U.S. it’s the reverse — before the federal government is likely to take the step of banning a class of pesticides, and pissing off the multibillion-dollar chemical industry, you’re likely to see a lot more science done.
So what we may get in Europe and the U.S. is a de facto field test of the real impact of neonicotinoids on CCD. In two years, if American bees are still dying and their European cousins are thriving, we might just have our answers. And if not, well, I hope you don’t like cashews, beets, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, chestnuts, watermelons, cucumber, fennel, strawberries, macadamia, mangoes, apricots, almonds or any of the other dozens of food crops pollinated by our hardworking, six-legged, unpaid farmworkers.