Disappearing bees mystery is solved!
It has been a mystery for some time now: Colony Collapse Disorder, where worker honeybees leave their hive, never to return. They just disappear! The queen, waiting for food, starves to death, and the entire colony disappears.
I’m sure that many people don’t really think that disappearing bees is that terrible a problem, especially if they’ve ever been stung, but this can turn out to be a literal disaster for our economy, our food supplies, and yes, even our survival. Why? Because most agricultural crops depend heavily on bees for pollination and cross-pollination for our domestic food supply, as well as pollination for vegetation in the wild. Without our agricultural crops, even for those of us who don’t eat grains, there can be a huge problem because our meat supply depends on these agricultural crops for feed. Indeed, the effect of the disappearance of bees is going to be a disaster if we don’t get a handle on it, and stop it.
Finding the culprit
In a recent Reuters news article, Richard Schiffman writes that three new studies show that – not surprisingly – the offending agent appears to be a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids (neonics for short). This class of pesticides is mostly produced in Germany by the chemical company Bayer, and not only is used extensively to kill pests in the corn, wheat, soy and cotton supply, it’s commonly used in home gardening pesticides as well.
According to the newest research, these pesticides coat the nectar and pollen produced by the plans, and are absorbed by the bees as they make their pollinating rounds. The neonics work as a nerve poison and make the bees disoriented, which makes it impossible to find their way back to their colony. As a result, the bees get lost, they can’t go home, the queen dies, and eventually, unless something is done, food supplies are also going to be lost.
Scientists also believe that other factors are at work as well, including the destruction of the native bee habitat, due to construction and land development, as well as the extensive spread of monoculture agriculture. Another big factor is a concern that those of us who are concerned with optimal nutrition have identified some time ago: Genetically Modified crops. These are crops which may even contain toxins encapsulated into their genetic structure, and will, many of us believe, eventually affect human biology to the point of possible disruption of the continuation of the species (irrespective of the other factors mentioned here.)
To me, the most disturbing aspect of this situation is the way it has been handled, according to Reuters:
Every spring millions of bee colonies are trucked to the Central Valley of California and other agricultural areas to replace the wild pollinators, which have all but disappeared in many parts of the country. These bees are routinely fed high-fructose corn syrup instead of their own nutritious honey. And in an effort to boost productivity, the queens are now artificially inseminated, which has led to a disturbing decline in bee genetic diversity. Bees are also dusted with chemical poisons to control mites and other pathogens that have flourished in the overcrowded commercial colonies.
Could it be that the honeybees are the “canaries” in the coal mine? I think it’s very possible that this is the case.
So, what can be done about this huge problem? Now that we know what is causing the bee deaths, it would seem simple enough to stop what is causing the problem and return to a more genetically-unaltered environment, but I am not so sure this is possible. Even if it is (and I hope it is), it may take a while to implement, if, indeed, we are even able to convince the decision-makers that this is a necessary step to take.
Other countries, like Germany and France, have figured this problem out. They have banned the pesticides that are most at fault in this situation.
Can we do this? Yes, I think we can, but the clock is ticking. We need to make these changes while there are still bees to save. Once they are gone, it will be too late.
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