Why are Honey Bees Vanishing

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"Why are Honey Bees Vanishing"
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Imagine a world without honey. Just when people have started to appreciate the health benefits of natural foods the honey bee appears to be disappearing and, as is so often the case, no one really knows why. What is certain is that honey bee populations are dwindling rapidly. 

Like human beings, bees live in near proximity to great numbers of their fellow creatures. Close contact will always heighten the risk of cross infection and bees are susceptible to a variety of diseases. Foulbrood, a bacterial infection, has been known for at least a century, and there are other more recently discovered threats. Bugs and parasites are building resistance to insecticides designed to eliminate them, without harming the bees themselves, and the virus carrying varrosa mite can wipe out whole colonies. 

Colony collapse disorder is yet another poorly understood phenomenon. Worker bees simply disappear. Whatever the cause, and no one knows what that is, it began to be noticed in America as recently as 2006 and has thus far had a devastating effect on bee colonies in more than 20 states. It is possibly prevalent in parts of Europe. Note the word possibly. Again, no one really knows for sure. 

The indiscriminate use of insecticides may well be a contributory factor in this useful insect's demise, or possibly not. Climate change is another potential culprit. 

A further suspect in the line up is the cell phone. As bees are thought to navigate to and from their hives by using the earth’s electromagnet fields cell phone radiation might just be confusing them. A recent study reported in CNN World does suggest possible links.  Whatever the causes it is a fact that many worker bees are failing to return to home base. 

Strange as it may seem simple stress might have some effect. America’s beekeepers transport their colonies to areas that need pollination. Why not? Many humans find the daily commute intolerable. 

The major worry, of course, apart from yet another creature facing an early extinction, is that bees don’t just produce honey. They pollinate an incredible variety of food crops. A New York Times article, from 2007, reports a Cornell University study which claims that an incredible $14 billion worth of food crops are pollinated by these industrious creatures. That clearly adds a whole new dimension to the saying, "busy as a bee." 

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to address the issue if the source of the problem remains a mystery. The US government has provided funds to research the phenomenon, but whatever the findings are there will need to be consensus on how to interpret and implement them. Human beings with their special interest groups don’t have a particularly good record in this line. Remember North Atlantic cod? All the arguments about fish conservation became as sterile as the Newfoundland Banks when the cod finally disappeared. 

As so often Shakespeare left us with an apt quotation, “For so work the honey bees, creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom.” Yes, but are the people prepared to learn the lesson?

More about this author: Michael Carroll

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://articles.cnn.com/2010-06-30/world/bee.decline.mobile.phones_1_bee-populations-cell-phone-radiation-ofcom?_s=PM:WORLD
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/27/business/27bees.html?pagewanted=all