In the article from the other day, The Obsession With Lawns, I mentioned how among other things that lawns are harming is the bee population – which begs the question, where have all the bees gone?
Bees are disappearing in droves, dying in epidemic numbers. One out of every three bees has died in the last few years.
For those of you who don’t like the sting of bees, you may think this is a good thing. Yet bees have an important place in nature.
You see, a third of what we eat is thanks to bees – because of their work pollinating flowers and plants. Bees are responsible for pollinating over 100 commonly eaten fruit and vegetable crops. Without bees our food system would be in serious trouble.
The disappearance of bees has an official name – Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD for short.
Colony Collapse Disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America in late 2006.
European beekeepers observed similar phenomena in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and initial reports have also come in from Switzerland and Germany, albeit to a lesser degree. Possible cases of CCD have also been reported in Taiwan since April 2007.
And what is causing CCD?
Bees are dying from the equivalent of the flu, and so they’re getting bad virus infections. But it’s not the same flu – there’s different strains and different types of viruses bees can get. CCD bees have a lot more pathogens than healthy bees do. The question is, why are these bees suddenly so susceptible to these different pathogens?
The answer is that their immune systems have become fragile.
There are a number of things that are weakening their immune systems: the widespread use of pesticides is first and foremost. This can harm the bees directly, or other insects that the bees eat.
Other possibilities have included cell phone radiation and genetically modified (GM) crops with pest control characteristics.
Whatever is behind it, it’s important that things be turned around, or our food system could be in peril.
Above, you can watch Dennis vanEngelsdorp, State Apiarist for Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture, speaking at a recent TED conference about the mysterious disappearance of bees. One of the things he does talk about as contributing to the bee problem are lawns, so pay heed to what he says.
And below is a trailer to a film about the bee crisis entitled The Last Beekeeper.