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Can't see the future for the bees

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 3, 2007


"We have seen the enemy and he is us." — Pogo

Spring 2007 and people are a buzz about the disappearance of bees. Everyone is looking for an answer to this environmental whodunit. The Broadcast media doesn't help. Being clueless, there just looking for an easy answer so the can move to the next issue du Jour.

Folks have asked me what I think is responsible for bee die offs in North America and Europe as if I was an apiarist with some special understanding of the biology of bees. Knowing what I know, I tell them the jury is still out, as the definitive science is still being done. General consensus is that humans are responsible for the abrupt increase in bee mortality.

In my neighborhood, the last die off of bees was the mass murder of a healthy hive at the hands of a crazy neighbor last summer, who used poison to do the deed in the dead of night. This year the bees are back in droves and once again thriving on our blooming native landscape.

With a healthy bee population to consider, marking an exception to the rule, it's clear to me organic habitats free of environmental pollutions are the ideal situation for bee viability and survival. Sadly organic habitats, free of environmental pollutions, are hard to come by, and like most species who come into contact with humans, bees are disappearing because of it.

It is the work of simpletons to think it is only one thing effecting bees and honey production. Like Polar Bears in the Arctic, honey bees are a victim caught up in the cascading impacts of human technology. And as with the polar bears, humans can only imagine the impact on humans when food chains, namely their own, begin to collapse.

According to Albert Einstein, Nobel laureate and father of relativity,"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."


Most recently the questions have centered around cell phones, theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming, habitat destruction, and GM crops are generating research as well. The problem of dwindling honey bee population is so severe it has been given a name. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers.

Most experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US plays a factor.

According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of Halle in eastern Germany, the bacterial toxin in genetically modified corn may have altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry. A study at the University of Jena from 2001 to 2004 documented that toxins from genetically modified corn designed to repel insects, when combined with a parasite, resulted in a significant decline in bee populations.

As far as cell phones are concerned regarding CCD, studies have shown when cell phones are turned on near honey bees, they will flee the colony. Radiation produced by cell phones disrupts communication among honey bees and the honey bees become dysfunctional, and abandon the colony including the queen.

To quote Pogo, "We have seen the enemy and he is us."

Honey latte anyone?

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