The Honeybee Crisis

by Crane-Station

Hello everyone. Fred is going to post later today about the case in Florida. In the meantime, we have made a decision to try and merge our independent sites into this one. This is a post I first shared this morning at Firedoglake/MyFDL (Over Easy). My posts are on a variety of topics unrelated to Zimmerman. Many people are interested in the incarceration experience Frog Gravy, and I will attempt to put some of that here as well.

The Honeybee Crisis

According to statistics released by the US Department of Agriculture earlier this month, 31 percent of the managed honeybee colonies died in the winter. Since fruiting is dependent on fertilization, a result of pollination, honeybee decline can impact agriculture. We can directly link honeybees to one out of every three bites of food that we put on our table.

The Plight of the Honeybee
Billions of dollars—and a way of life—ride on saving pollinators.

Western nations rely heavily on managed honeybees—the “moveable force” of bees that ride in trucks from farm to farm—to keep commercial agriculture productive. About a third of our foods (some 100 key crops) rely on these insects, including apples, nuts, all the favorite summer fruits (like blueberries and strawberries), alfalfa (which cows eat), and guar bean (used in all kinds of products). In total, bees contribute more than $15 billion to U.S. crop production, hardly small potatoes.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) explains that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a hive condition where “very low or no adult honey bees present in the hive but with a live queen and no dead honey bee bodies present.” According to interviews of beekeepers in the documentaries, this condition can occur within a matter of a few hours.

The USDA further suggests that possible causes of colony decline could be due to unusually warm winter, bee diet (ie: protein, in particular), or cyclic disease, but also states that scientific connections are lacking for the theories. While the European Commission (EU) has ” has banned the pesticides associated with colony collapse disorder in bees,” the US has not done so yet. Oddly, the report contains this statement:

A comprehensive and sensitive analytical survey was done for the presence of 200 pesticides in bee, comb, and pollen samples from 23 states. No specific pattern of pesticide residues emerged that correlates with honey bee deaths March 2010

To be precise, the study linked in the statement says this:

Conclusions/Significance

The 98 pesticides and metabolites detected in mixtures up to 214 ppm in bee pollen alone represents a remarkably high level for toxicants in the brood and adult food of this primary pollinator. This represents over half of the maximum individual pesticide incidences ever reported for apiaries. While exposure to many of these neurotoxicants elicits acute and sublethal reductions in honey bee fitness, the effects of these materials in combinations and their direct association with CCD or declining bee health remains to be determined.

Will we fund or ignore the “remains to be determined” part? Would it surprise you at all to learn that yesterday, three large agrichemical pesticide companies came forward with plans to fund research for bee decline?

Monsanto, Bayer, Sygenta Fund Bee Research

Bayer and Sygenta “produce neonicotinoids,” and Monsanto uses the pesticides to coat seeds. These pesticides have been banned in Europe, as mentioned above. From wiki: “Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine. The development of this class of insecticides began with work in the 1980s by Shell and the 1990s by Bayer.[1]”

Leo Tolstoy said, “The closer we examine the honeybee, the more we realize the workings of a beehive encompass territories beyond our comprehension.” USDA bee laboratory scientist Dr. Jeffrey Pettis explains in Vanishing of the Bees that CCD is difficult to study because there are no bee corpses to examine when a colony literally vanishes. (video at 15:30). So far, scientists have investigated, and eliminated as possibilities, several microbial and viral suspects. Haunting how accurate Tolstoy’s quote really was. But what is maybe even more haunting is that the beehive workings will be studied with funds that have direct interest in the outcome of the research.

One of the scientists in the documentary reveals other suggestions for honeybee decline, that he has received in his email, including cell phones, the Rapture, Outer Space, and the ‘Russians-have-implanted-genes-and-they-are-beaming-them-from-satellite.’ While the scientist is confident that the persistent cell phone tower rumor is now known nonsense, he does say that the issue of genetically modified crops, while scientists have observed no direct evidence, deserves a bit more attention.

What saddens in the documentary is that we have exploited the honeybee, with factory farming practices such as feeding the bees empty sugar calories, killing the queens and replacing them with younger queens introduced in cages, and artificial insemination, with the likes of a scientist’s backward after-remark, “She looks a little rough, but she’ll come around.” There have been only too few, it seems, efforts at returning the bees to their natural state. When bees disappear, it’s wrong- surely some basic humanity instinct still exists in all of us.

Vanishing of the Bees full documentary:

BBC Documentary titled Who Killed the Honeybee?

Related:

One-Third of U.S. Honeybee Colonies Died Last Winter, Threatening Food Supply

Bees and the European neonicotinoids pesticide ban: Q&A

The US rejects Europe’s banning of these chemicals:

US rejects EU claim of insecticide as prime reason for bee colony collapse
“Government study points to a combination of factors for decline in population, breaking away from singling out pesticides”

Beepocalypse Redux: Honeybees Are Still Dying — and We Still Don’t Know Why

Monsanto stung by drop in bee population

Monsanto, Bayer seek answers to bee losses

“This is a difficult, high stakes battle,” said Peter Jenkins, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety, which sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in March on behalf of a group of U.S. beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups over what they say is a lack of sound regulation of the pesticides in question.

“They may have a lot of money. But… we’re going to win,” Jenkins said.

24 Responses to The Honeybee Crisis

  1. LaLuna says:

    immensely saddened; i captured and released bumble and honey bees in fields of clover as a child; my son would hold bees in his hand as a child. can our grandchildren and great-grandchildren ever survive this greed and mass destruction? is there a wonder cancer is pervasive?

  2. Charles Ramsey says:

    The honey bee is not native to north America it is an invasive species. Now that the Africanized bee is here I recommend letting the species die. There are native alternatives for fertilization.

  3. cielo62 says:

    In that same vein, there have been large reductions in the bat population. Bats also positively impact agriculture, through pollination from fruit bats to eating insect pests that devour crops. The rapid decline in our two leading agricultural allies must be investigated. Plus, bats are cute. Bees, not so much.

  4. Lonnie Starr says:

    I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take them to figure out that they need to devise a method of tracking these bees? Nano transponders anyone?

  5. Who needs honeybees when you have Mosanto and their genetically modified crops?

  6. bettykath says:

    The decline of the bee population is a serious problem, but in a country where the corporations rule, don’t expect an effective result. A misinterpretation of a study, most likely by the influence of corporate lobbyists, is common. Corporate money to fund new studies means they get to cherry pick the results. The results that don’t favor their pov will get deep sixed.

    At a time when corporations were being sued due to their polluting with dioxin, they got the EPA to conduct a new study with the expectation that dioxin would prove to be less dangerous than previously assumed. The final report was never made available, but a draft report was leaked. The report showed that dioxin was, in fact, far more toxic than previously assumed. Didn’t matter. The study was used, successfully, to dull the sword of the lawsuits.

    Monsanto, et al, promoting another study, well, it’s been done before.

  7. Romaine says:

    this is a very nice topic, and i have a few ?’s
    1. are there natural pesticides available that wont harm the honey bees?
    2. how do you tell the difference between a honey bee and any other bee?
    3. what plants if any is the honey bee attracted to?
    4. if we plant more flowers to attract and feed the honey bee will it matter?
    5. how do we prevent the colony collapse disorder?

    I ask these ?’s because we have bees and black jacks in our yard, ive never seen a hive but i often wonder if they make honey.

    the bees and black jacks are huge so does size matter

  8. fauxmccoy says:

    silent spring revisited 😦

  9. ay2z says:

    Nature of Things, with David Suzuki

    Here’s the program titled “To Bee or Not To Bee”

    http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/The+Nature+of+Things/2009-10/ID/1380312270/

    Scientists are calling the planet’s disappearance of the bees, ‘the insect version of the perfect storm…. a scientific mystery…. ground central, a Pensylvania beekeeper who discovered it’s bees dearing.

    Scientists called this ‘COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER’. The solitary natural bees in nature, are also disappearing.

    (more than 19,000 species of bees on the planet).

    What’s at stake if we lose bees? Irreplaceable pollinators, they inadvertantly fertilize flowers and half our food crop polinators.

    Some species, natural species, have already disappeared.

    Honey bees don’t select what flowers they use, natural bees are selective, but they evolved alongside plants, all interconnected are the bees, plants and animals, and us.

  10. ay2z says:

    How refreshing, Crane! And so important. I’d like to share a quote from Canadian artist, Aganetha Dyck.

    First, a clarification; I am not a beekeeper. I rent the colonies of honeybees, bee hives, and apiary space from a qualified beekeeper. All my work with honeybees is overseen by a scientist and is always completed under the direction of a beekeeper. The beekeeper takes care of the bees. I am an artist interested in environmental issues and in inter-species communication, specifically interested in the power of the small. My ongoing research asks questions regarding the ramifications all living beings would experience should honey bees disappear from earth.

    People ask, while probably feeling a little helpless, ‘What can I do?”

    This is what Aganetha is doing as an artist, she is learning, questioning, observing and acknowledging these important creatures. As an artist, Aganetha gives us visual enjoyment of the bees as architects and builders (and teachers), while giving us surprises and wonders and insight into the world of bees. And we can’t help but come away with wonder of our own.

    That may be where we should begin, not by asking how to solve the problem only to become discouraged, but by allowing ourselves to be filled with wonder at these amazing and life-giving creatures.

    Aganetha answers another question by the interviewer —

    “MJ: What have you learned as a sculptor as a result of working with bees?”

    Working with the honeybees has taught me patience and that paying attention to detail is important.

    They have invigorated my ability to imagine.

    I never cease to wonder at the honeybee’s ability to construct strong, awesome structures using the least amount of material to construct what is required.

    Architects around the world have studied the strength of honeycomb structures. Both architects and artists have been influenced by the honeybee’s design patterns.

    And her first introduction to bees at an apiary:

    My first visit to an apiary was like entering another world, a foreign land. When the beekeeper first opened the lid of a beehive for me, all my senses were awakened. I became totally alive, filled with wonder and imagination. Under the hive lid is a place filled with movement, scent, warmth, sound and ambrosia. Taking a deep breath I stood in awe at the 50,000 moving beings constructing wax comb, dancing their various dances of communication, preparing to fly off as directed to gather nectar, pollen or propolis, as required by their colony.

      • two sides to a story says:

        Ooo. Nice, Ay2z. Thanks for the link. I kept a couple of hives at a urban home in the late 70s. I was an abject failure as a beekeeper and my hives both swarmed as well as developed a common bee ailment that wiped them out, but the first time I opened the lid of the hive I had a similar experience as Aganetha Dyck. Bees are endlessly fascinating. I wish I had written about it as beautifully as she does.

        You’ve heard the the saying “no trees, no tigers.” Well, no bees, loss of food crops, loss of fruit from flowering trees, loss of the many things that bees affect. When we destroy the least among us, the greatest will also suffer. It’s scary to see we’ve nearly reached a point of no return . . .

        Glad to see you posting here, Crane Station. I was visiting your blog this AM.

    • Oh, thank you so much, this is amazing. A breath of fresh air and a wonderful concept, for a change.

  11. nancybenefiel says:

    It’s kind of like that old precognitive ad, “It’s not NICE to mess with Mother Nature”.

  12. Mary Davis says:

    @ Tzar. I beat you to the front of the line.

  13. Mary Davis says:

    following

  14. Tzar says:

    2 questions
    what can we do?
    how is this related, if in any way, to the emergence of the seed vaults and engineered suicide seeds?

    • ay2z says:

      Geeze, sounds like scarey thoughts, Tzar. We do live in a world where bigger and more is better, like the ATT commercials show, greed is everything (note that ATT uses small children to explain the ‘more is better’ philosophy). Of course they are talking cell phone service, but the message is that everything ‘more’ is better and undoubtably, the message is targeted at the youngest future consumers, primary school children, and in an educational setting to prove the lessons in the ad are somehow credible.

    • I don’t know the answers and I wish I did. I found the articles and documentaries to be heartbreaking and haunting.

  15. Mary Davis says:

    I am first for the first time. Alpha. Ha Ha Ha Ha.

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