What’s happening to the Bees.

Via on Mar 30, 2012
Return of the Bee
Photo: MightyBoyBrian

His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for the bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon!

~ Emily Dickinson

Nature has her mysteries, breathtaking mind-blowers that leave us confused. What the hell is happening to the bees is a big one.

It’s a monster, ecologically speaking, because no one’s sure exactly why bees are dying like mad. It’s wildly important because bees are pollinators extraordinaire, unmatched in their ability to mate plants and support the Earth’s food cycle.

Studies released this month by the well-respected journal, Science, pinpoint a type of insecticides known as neonicotinoids that could be damaging bees. Neonicotinoids lace nearly all corn, canola and sunflower seeds sown in the U.S. Although they are found in low levels, the chemicals may be more potent than the Environmental Protection Agency (and similar European agencies) once thought.

According to NPR:

The chemicals are absorbed by the growing corn or canola plant and transported throughout its roots, leaves, and even its nectar and pollen. This makes the entire plant poisonous to lots of insects that feed on it, from root-gnawing worms to sap-sucking aphids.

Did you catch that? About nectar and pollen? That’s what bees eat. And it takes only a small amount of these insecticides to kill a bee.

In the first study, researchers at the University of Stirling, in the United Kingdom, exposed bumblebees to low, “field-realistic” levels of a neonicotinoid insecticide called imidacloprid. The bumblebees didn’t die, but in a remarkable and unexpected development, they almost stopped making new queen bees.

In the second study, carried out in France, honeybees that were exposed to another nicotinoid seemed less able to navigate, and many never found their way back to their home hive. This study, however, exposed the bees to higher levels of pesticide, probably higher than most bees encounter in the real world.

Together, the studies show that when bees are exposed to levels of these insecticides that aren’t enough to kill them, they’re still harmed in ways that can endanger the survival of their colonies. The neonicotinoids appear to be “so toxic to bees, really the only safe number is zero,” says Christian Krupke, one of the authors of the Purdue study.

~

Though some may associate bees with stings, remember that we all want (frankly, need) these fellows and queens around. Consider this:

Backyard, rooftop and even mobile hives are growing in popularity. Regular folk are trying a hand at beekeeping and the rewards touch families and communities.

I grew up in a beekeeping family with as many as five or six hives buzzing behind our garden (a damn productive garden too, I might add), and I never once was stung. Even as an amateur smoker (it’s a beekeeping technique, for all you bee virgins) in jean-shorts and flip-flops, I still came out unscathed.

I have great memories of checking the bees with my dad and sister. The honeycomb, Ball-jarred and swimming in its own golden honey, offered a flavor I’ll never forget. A real friend-maker, playmates would actually ask to taste it—not every child had this abundance in their own homes.

Photo: freenaturepictures

If hives and keeping sound like too much on your outdoor plate, simply treat your own space as a bee-safe area. At a minimum, plant natives plants and avoid chemicals.

If you want to take it to the next step try planting some bee attractors (from Gardens Ablaze):

>Appropriate Herbs

Basil, Bee Balm, Borage, Catnip, Cornflower, Dill, Echinacea, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Goldenrod, Horehound, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Poppy, Thyme, Sage

>Appropriate Ornamentals

Bachelor’s Button, Black-Eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Clematis, Coreopsis, Dame’s Rocket, Foxglove, Goldenrod, Heliotrope, Hydrangea, Lantana, Larkspur, Mexican Hat, Plumbago, Rose of Sharon, Salvia, Sweet William, Zinnia

It’s true that environmentalists, scientists and farmers have suspected many culprits in the disappearance of bees. In a way, it is a desperate search for an answer. Colony Collapse Disorder is still a mystery.  Cell phones, habitat declines, parasites and other chemicals have been studied for their seemingly harmful impact on bees. What’s clear is that bees are a balanced, and balancing, element of nature’s system.  Anything and everything could waver the delicate vitality of these creatures.

~

Editor: Brianna Bemel

About Jill Barth

Jill Barth, elephant journal green team leader, lives in Illinois with her husband and kids. She reminds you to breathe. Jill's writing can be found on her blog, Small Things Honored.

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15 Responses to “What’s happening to the Bees.”

  1. shay dewey says:

    Featured on Elephant Journal Health and Wellness Facebook Page 03/30/2012

  2. joshua says:

    http://www.mail.com/scitech/news/949334-parasitic
    http://www.npr.org/2012/01/06/144794041/parasitic

    Pesticides are really bad and also consider this other factor
    "Scientists say the fly deposits its eggs into the bee's abdomen, causing the infected bee to exhibit zombie-like behavior by walking around in circles with no apparent sense of direction. The bee leaves the hive at night and dies shortly thereafter.

    The symptoms mirror colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear. The disease is of great concern, because bees pollinate about a third of the United States' food supply. Its presence is especially alarming in California, the nation's top producer of fruits and vegetables, where bees play an essential role in the $2 billion almond industry and other crops.

    The latest study, published Tuesday in the science journal PLoS ONE, points to the parasitic fly as the new threat to honey bees. It's another step in ongoing research to find the cause of the disease."

  3. Mat Hill says:

    Er, it’s not a mystery. As the article and a mass of study have said, it’s neonicotinoids. Many people in several industries have known or suspected this for years, these studies confirmed it, most of the developed world banned them immediately and it’s just the governments of the US and the UK that are dragging their feet until Monsanto and big agrichem can change the formula. That will be too late. The bees die: we die – it’s that simple!

    Other forms of pesticidal tampering such as the parasitic larva mentioned above are also to blame, but agrichem are, as usual, the major culprits.

    Keep the pressure up on your representatives. Write a letter now.

  4. Mat Hill says:

    Er, it’s not a mystery. As the article and a mass of study have said, it’s neonicotinoids. Many people in several industries have known or suspected this for years, these studies confirmed it, most of the developed world banned them immediately and it’s just the governments of the US and the UK that are dragging their feet until Monsanto and big agrichem can change the formula. That will be too late. The bees die: we die – it’s that simple!

    Other pesticidal tampering are to blame too no doubt, but big agrichem are the main culprits, a shown by their blanket stonewalling in refusing to even discuss neonicotinoids last year.

    Keep the pressure up on your representatives. Write a letter now.

  5. Mat Hill says:

    What is a mystery, however, is how my answer duplicated itself! Apologies all!

  6. Lorin Arnold Lorin says:

    Posted to Elephant Food on Facebook and Twitter.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at The VeganAsana
    Team leader for Elephant Food and Elephant Family

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  11. Food4thought says:

    Some food for thought.

    The last 10 years has seen an enormous shift in the magnetic frequencies of the earth. These are caused by our use of wireless technology like our cellphones. Bees navigate and survive using our earths magnetic frequencies. Now what happens when you interrupt those frequencies? You guessed it, these bees can’t do what they do best and pollinate. We have seen a decline in their population while we see a rise in the number of cell towers and mobile phone use. We are creating a web of our frequency radiation that is causing this radical phenomenon. If you seem skeptical, Below is the link to a wonderful documentary. Check it out and see a glimps of an explanation to this disturbing change going on.

    http://youtu.be/5vb9R0x_0NQ

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