Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bees really are dying

In my novel, When Bees Die, it is a terrorist plot that kills off the bees but in the real world bees really are in trouble.   As I do a little research for the second book in the series I find out that there isn't just one reason but, as often the case,  there are a number:

1. Malnutrition   

Wild bees feed on a diversity of pollen and nectar sources.   Commercial honey bees are limited to certain commercial crops for which the hives are rented, for example, almonds or cherries.  These kinds of limits may contribute to bees' nutritional deficiencies.

2. Pesticides

Pesticides, particularly nicotine based pesticides, are suspected in colony collapse disorder.  Purdue University researchers have produced a list of pesticides that cause the death of bees on contact and it is a long list.

3.  Genetically modified crops

A major genetically modified crop is corn, one of the most, if not the most widely produced North American crops.   Honey bees decline in these areas but it is not known why.  

4. Migratory beekeeping

Beekeeping today is more about renting hives to farmers than producing honey.   There's just a lot more money in the former.  But remember, honeybees use orientation to find their way around.   Moving them thousands of miles every few months is not only stressful for bees, lowering their immunity, it also introduces new diseases and pathogens which they haven't had an opportunity to build up an immunity to.

5. Lack of Genetic Biodiversity

Bees are healthier when they obtain pollen from a variety of sources.

6. Beekeeping Practices

Studies of how beekeepers manage their bees may determine trends that lead up to the disappearance of colonies. How and what bees are fed would certainly impact their health directly. Splitting or combining hives, applying chemical miticides, or administering antibiotics are all practices worthy of study. 

7. Parasites and Pathogens

These do not cause Colony Collapse Disorder on their own, but some suspect they may make bees more susceptible to it. Beekeepers fear varroa mites the most, because they transmit viruses in addition to the direct damage they do as a parasite. The chemicals used to control varroa mites further compromise the honeybees' health. 

8. Toxins in the Environment

Honeybee exposure to toxins in the environment warrants research as well, and some suspect chemicals as a cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. Water sources may be treated to control other insects, or contain chemical residues from runoff. Foraging bees might be impacted by household or industrial chemicals, through contact or inhalation. The possibilities for toxic exposure make pinpointing a definitive cause difficult, but this theory requires attention by scientists.

9.  Electromagnetic radiation

This area is in dispute with some research demonstrating that both cell phones and cell phone towers disrupt bee navigation.   The bees cannot find their way back to the hive.

10.  Climate change

Global temperature increases cause a chain reaction in the ecosystem.  Warm winters, droughts and floods all affect flower plants, limiting nectar and pollen supply.

It's amazing there are any bees left!
 123RF Stock Photo

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