Originally posted by rikriley
Einstein once said if the bees vanish then all life on Earth has 4 years to live.
Approximately 80% of all insect pollination is completed by honey bees. The disappearance and the dying off of hundreds of millions of honey bees has the scientific community sounding the alarm that the human race could be in serious trouble.
Few people realized that the honeybee apocalypse was already over...The stragglers have been kept alive only by the continued ministrations of the agricultural giga-industry that needs them...
...This year the California Almond Board two-timed the honeybee with Osmia lignaria—the blue-orchard bee: Despite CCD, they had a record harvest.
The list of crops that simply won’t grow without honey bees is a long one: Apples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, carrots, avocados, almonds … and it goes on.
Without bees to pollinate many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, the United States could lose $15 billion worth of crops -- not to mention what it would do to your diet.
bee on a flower
Honey bees are important pollinators for both flowers and agricultural crops.
Beekeepers first sounded the alarm about disappearing bees in 2006. Seemingly healthy bees were simply abandoning their hives en masse, never to return. Researchers call the mass disappearance Colony Collapse Disorder, and they estimate that nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the country have vanished.
Why are the bees leaving? Scientists studying the disorder believe a combination of factors could be making bees sick, including pesticide exposure, invasive parasitic mites, an inadequate food supply and a new virus that targets bees' immune systems. More research is essential to determine the exact cause of the bees' distress.
Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allotted $20 million over the next five years for research, that amount pales in comparison with the potential loss of $15 billion worth of crops that bees pollinate every year. And the USDA has so far failed to aggressively seek out a solution.
If we don’t act now to save the honey bee, it might be too late. And no honey bees will mean no more of your favorite fruits and vegetables.
Here’s a list of what bees pollinate:
Take Action Now!
URGE USDA TO ACT
Tell the Department of Agriculture to act now to save bees and crops.
Take Action Now
Watch the Video
vanishing of the bees video
Learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder in this video produced for OnEarth magazine.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* Make your garden bee-safe
* Read "The Vanishing" in OnEarth magazine
Fruits and Nuts Vegetables Field Crops
* Macadamia nuts
* Alfalfa Hay
* Alfalfa Seed
* Cotton Lint
* Cotton Seed
* Legume Seed
* Sugar Beets
Colony Collapse Disorder in domestic honey bees is all the buzz lately, mostly because honey bees pollinate food crops for humans.
However, we would not be so dependent on commercial non-native factory farmed honey bees if we were not killing off native pollinators. Organic agriculture does not use chemicals or crops toxic to bees and, done properly, preserves wildlife habitat in the vicinity, recognizing the intimate relationship between cultivated fields and natural areas.
While no one is certain why honey bee colonies are collapsing, factory farmed honey bees are more susceptible to stress from environmental sources than organic or feral honey bees. Most people think beekeeping is all natural but in commercial operations the bees are treated much like livestock on factory farms.
I'm on an organic beekeeping email list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with commercial operations is pesticides used in hives to fumigate for varroa mites and antibiotics are fed to the bees to prevent disease. Hives are hauled long distances by truck, often several times during the growing season, to provide pollination services to industrial agriculture crops, which further stresses the colonies and exposes them to agricultural pesticides and GMOs.
Bees have been bred for the past 100 years to be much larger than they would be if left to their own devices. If you find a feral honeybee colony in a tree, for example, the cells bees use for egg-laying will be about 4.9 mm wide. This is the size they want to build the natural size.
The foundation wax that beekeepers buy have cells that are 5.4 mm wide so eggs laid in these cells produce much bigger bees. It's the same factory farm mentality we've used to produce other livestock bigger is better. But the bigger bees do not fare as well as natural-size bees.
Varroa mites, a relatively new problem in North America, will multiply and gradually weaken a colony of large bees so that it dies within a few years. Mites enter a cell containing larvae just before the cell is capped over with wax. While the cell is capped, the bee transforms into an adult and varroa mites breed and multiply while feeding on the larvae.
The larvae of natural bees spend less time in this capped over stage, resulting in a significant decrease in the number of varroa mites produced. In fact, very low levels of mites are tolerated by the bees and do not affect the health of the colony. Natural-size bees, unlike large bees, detect the presence of varroa mites in capped over cells and can be observed chewing off the wax cap and killing the mites. Colonies of natural-size bees are healthier in the absence mites, which are vectors for many diseases.
It's now possible to buy small cell foundation from US suppliers, but most beekeepers in Canada have either never heard of small cell beekeeping, aren't willing to put the effort into changing or are skeptical of the benefits. This alternative is not promoted at all by the Canadian Honey Council, an organization representing the beekeeping industry, which even tells its members on their website that, "The limitations to disease control mean that losses can be high for organic beekeepers." [ref link]
Organic beekeeping, as defined by certification agencies, allows the use of less toxic chemicals. It's more an IPM approach to beekeeping than organic.
Commercial beekeeping today is just another cog in the wheel of industrial agriculture necessary because pesticides and habitat loss are killing native pollinators, and vast tracks of monoculture crops aren't integrated into the natural landscape.
In an organic Canada, native pollinators would flourish and small diversified farms would keep their own natural bees for pollination and local honey sales.
The factory farm aspects of beekeeping, combined with an onslaught of negative environmental factors, puts enough stress on the colonies that they are more susceptible to dying out.
Originally posted by Vasilis Azoth
This bee die off IS very serious, but...
Einstein wasn't a biologist and although I love his wisdom(ussually) in this case he is clearly wrong.
Bee's aren't the only method of pollination. Thousands of other types of insects do it as well. Not to mention the wind. So although the ecology might suffer a collapse and OUR envirounment might become unlivable for a while LIFE would go on just fine. Probably better without us actually.