First we’ll kill off the bees

While we’re still convinced that building more highways and developing housing on prime farmland, we’re sort of forgetting about the smallest things that make a big difference: Bees.

Reading the comments on the Dayton Daily News site (I really have to stop doing that) makes me wonder if anyone who uses that site paid attention in junior high biology. Bees are critical to our survival- here is a quick take from the USDA Agricultural Research Service:

Why should the public care about honey bees?Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. While there are native pollinators honey bees came from the Old World with European colonists, honey bees are more prolific and the easiest to manage for the large scale pollination that U.S. agriculture requires. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States, and this need is projected to grow to 1.5 million colonies by 2010.

via ARS : Questions and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder.

In the same way that the stock market is connected to the financial health of our country- even though it only represents a tiny fraction of the businesses in this country- bees are critical to our entire ecosystem.

Here is the Dayton Grassroots Daily Shows discussion on the future of humankind- if we forget about the bees:

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2 Comments on "First we’ll kill off the bees"

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I agree with you both about keeping up with the Jones’.  Only problem is that in my neighborhood all the Jones’ voted and I can be fined for allowing dandelions on my property.  What happens when grand old Democracy and nature are at odds?  Maybe it would be better if we had private property protections so that I could let dandelions grow without the fear of having to pay fines to the Jones’.
Oh…wait, I would then be damaging the Jones’ by “lowering their property values”…I remember.  Idea withdrawn.  Guess we have to live without bees because people have the “right” to tell me what I can have my house and lawn look like because they know that other people don’t like weeds on their neighbors lawn or that color of paint on my front door.

Shortwest Rick
Shortwest Rick

I’ve sort of followed this colony collapse thing off and on since they started reporting it about four years ago. Surfing around, there are a lot of opinions on the cause but nobody seems to have hard evidence explaining why it came on all of a sudden. At best this makes me an armchair speculator on the subject. There are some dots I’ve never seen connected in print though. Colony collapse seems to hit large commercial beekeeps much more than hobbyists, so there’s likely a difference in practice to be found between the two groups. In nature, bees store honey to feed on over the winter and as nourishment for the next brood of bees. Hobbyists strip a portion of hive, leave enough for the next generation and winter their bees feeding them sugar water with no apparent negative consequence. Many commercial beekeeps moved to wintering bees with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) because it’s cheaper, but as a processed sweetening agent HFCS seems to be empty of any nutritional value. In combination with completely stripping hives, they may be unwittingly starving their bees. This could explain why the bees literally leave in droves looking for another food source. If it was only due to mites, virus or pesticides I’d think they’d find dead bees lying around.