You've probably heard by now that thousands of bees all around the world have literally vanished into thin air. They're just gone--no bodies to be found, at least not on a large scale. The mystery is technically called "Colony Collapse Disorder"--but it's just a fancy name for what I like to call WTHAATB--Where the Hell Are All the Bees?
I can understand if you're thinking that this doesn't have anything to do with you, but trust me--it could hit much closer to home than you'd ever guess.
You see, honey isn't the bees' sweetest contribution to the environment. Bees are such a vital part of the agricultural process, that in many cases, if there are no bees, there are no crops. Most of the sources I've read estimate that honeybees are worth about $14 billion a year to the United States economy. We're talking a potential crisis, not just for farmers and beekeepers, but also for our economy and for our produce supply.
The big question everyone is asking is WHY? I don't presume to know the answer, but after looking at all the suspects, there's only one that I'd finger: the big bee business.
Making a case for the missing bees
I don't generally have much in common with environmental activists and, as a matter of fact, I try to avoid them. But I'm not bigoted enough to believe that they're ALL bad. Occasionally, I come across one who isn't just a Luddite for the sake of being a Luddite--but one who is reputable in her profession and logical in her arguments. In this case, I'm talking about environmental activist and organic beekeeper Sharon Labchuk.
Now, before I go any further, I want to be clear that I'm not saying I agree with all of Sharon's leftist ideas or hair-brained antics. (I came across a picture of her in a potato field wearing nothing but a gas mask. I think she was protesting pesticide use. Whatever the cause, it sure got my attention!) But I digress
As a beekeeper (and not just a propagandist), Sharon has some interesting personal experience to report on the disappearing bees. In part, here's what she had to say: "I'm on an organic beekeeping 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." Now that really got my attention.
She went on to talk about the crowded, stressed, unnatural conditions commercial bees are placed under. At this point, I can't verify the validity of her argument (although I am looking into it)--but its logic certainly makes sense to me. In fact, it sounds eerily familiar--much like what I've told you in the past about the beef industry (mad cow disease) and the poultry industry (bird flu).
Crowded conditions are breeding grounds of bacteria and disease--especially when viral hosts have nearly identical genetic makeup. This would leave the beehives extremely vulnerable to any invading pathogen. And there's evidence to show that that's just what's happened.
Several unknown microorganisms have been found in bees from collapsing colonies across the nation. In one case, a Florida beekeeper named David Hackenberg sent his vacated bee boxes to be tested by a company that uses radiation to kill bacteria on medical equipment. After the bee boxes were irradiated, a new population of bees had no problem living in them. Bee expert Dr. Diana Cox-Foster says that these results point to the pathogen theory--as opposed to the chemical/pesticide theory--because "it would be hard to explain the irradiation getting rid of a chemical."
Have overstressed bees gone on strike?
According to Sharon, with the unnatural way the commercial beekeepers maintain their hives, it's no wonder they're experiencing a major crisis. The big commercial beekeepers put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, they feed antibiotics to the bees, and they haul the hives by truck to various locations to make more money with pollination services. Not only that, but commercial beekeepers also use larger cells--50 percent larger--than those provided by nature. This makes for larger bees and hence more honey production. And as if all that weren't bad enough, we take their honey for our own purposes and replace it with sugary water that can't possibly substitute for the real thing.
I could go on, but the point is this: All of these factors put undue stress on the bees and weaken their immune systems--making them more vulnerable to the pathogens and diseases that are bound to thrive in their environment.
"Who should be surprised," Sharon asks, "that the major media reports forget to tell us that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax into a larger than normal body size?" Good question.
One more for the road: Cell phones are evil!!
Not to be left out of the debate, the electromagnetism-will-destroy -mankind paranoiacs had to put their two cents in. They're pointing to cell phones as the root cause of CCD, claiming that the radio waves are disrupting their flight patterns. This proclamation from the Greenies startled me. I didn't even know that bees used cell phones. Have they developed (through evolution, of course) a new means of navigation? I was taught in high school biology class that they navigated by the light spectrum, not the electromagnetic spectrum. (But I admit, that was a long, long time ago! Maybe they've changed the rules.)
I can assure you no qualified scientist advised these environmentalists on this foolishness. I know this for two reasons: (1) They don't employ qualified scientists and (2) they don't care if their proclamations are true but only if the propaganda hit creates a little more doubt in the minds of the masses about the value of Western industrial civilization. So it follows suit that every animadversion that is not exposed and ridiculed brings them ever closer to their Luddite dream of returning us to the brutal life of the 18th century.
A cheap shot at GMO
I feel as if I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention another major suspect in the case of the missing bees: genetically modified organisms (GMO).
As you probably know, I am an enthusiastic supporter of GMO. All of the science proving its ability to revolutionize agriculture to the benefit of all mankind has made me into a believer. The scientists in this field are remarkably responsible, proficient, and precise in their investigations. They are so far ahead of the naysayers that by the time the lunatic Luddites have targeted the geneticist's work as the cause of another biological calamity, the geneticists have long-since investigated the GMO under attack and have proven it to be safe and effective.
Case in point: Bacillus thuringiensis. (I'll call it "Bt" for short.) Bt is one of the most effective weapons in the fight against plant disease. So it's no wonder that environmentalists have thrown out a hand grenade designed to discredit this bacterium. Just like the Nazi youth before them, what these purists lack in knowledge, they make up for in zeal--except in this case, it's a zeal to remake the world into a pastoral paradise.
In their willful ignorance, they're naming Bt as a suspect in Colony Collapse Disorder. But, as always, the geneticists are years ahead of them. They have already done the work that proves Bt is safe--not only for the honeybee, but also for pollinators such as birds, fish, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, lacewings, springtails, aquatic invertebrates, and earthworms. Bt proteins are extremely selective and are toxic only to specific pests. They bind specifically to receptors on the mid-gut of sensitive caterpillar pests and have no harmful effect on beneficial insects such as the honeybee.
Who knew such a small insect could stir up so much, well-BUZZ. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) But bees aren't the only insects stirring up controversy in the news lately. There's another, larger one--his name is Al Gore.