Pity the bees; pity us.

A world without bees would be a world without us!

Note: I would like to remind good readers of Learning from Dogs as to what I wrote a week ago; namely:

My daughter, Maija, son-in-law, Marius, and grandson, Morten, aged two, are staying with us over the next couple of weeks, arriving tomorrow.

So being able to offer a daily fresh post on Learning from Dogs will be a challenge. As indeed, it should be: Family should always be the top priority.

However, rather than leaving you with blank pages, I shall be regurgitating some earlier posts, starting tomorrow.

Thus the room for creative writings from yours truly is restrained, if not impossible, until Maija and company leave on Friday morning.


Guard their future - and ours!
Guard their future – and ours!

For today I want to focus, primarily using materials from elsewhere, on the developing situation regarding our bees: they are in crisis.

This all came to my attention when Jean and I were able to watch a recent BBC Horizon Special: What’s Killing Our Bees?  As the BBC Horizon website explains:

Bill Turnbull investigates one of the biggest mysteries in the British countryside: what is killing our bees. It is a question that generates huge controversy. Changes in the weather, pesticides and even a deadly virus have all been blamed. It is a question that Bill is all too familiar with as a beekeeper himself. He meets the scientists who are fitting minute radar transponders on to bees to try to find answers.

Not sure how long this will remain available on YouTube but here is the first quarter of that BBC Horizon Special.

But the message put out by Bill Turnbull that this was solely a mystery for the British countryside was demolished in TIME Magazine for August 12th, which ran as their lead story:

Bees making the headlines.

You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you’ll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the “glue that holds our agricultural system together,” as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper’s Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business.

So what’s killing the honeybees? Pesticides — including a new class called neonicotinoids — seem to be harming bees even at what should be safe levels. Biological threats like the Varroa mite are killing off colonies directly and spreading deadly diseases. As our farms become monocultures of commodity crops like wheat and corn — plants that provide little pollen for foraging bees — honeybees are literally starving to death. If we don’t do something, there may not be enough honeybees to meet the pollination demands for valuable crops. But more than that, in a world where up to 100,000 species go extinct each year, the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.

Forgive me, but just have to repeat that last sentence: “the vanishing honeybee could be the herald of a permanently diminished planet.

Then piling on the pressure was an article on Food Freedom News on the 11th August: 31 Percent of US Honey Bees Wiped Out This Year – Who Will Pollinate Our Crops?

By Michael Snyder
Blacklisted News

If bees keep dying off at this rate, we are going to be facing a horrific agricultural crisis very rapidly in the United States.  Last winter, 31 percent of all U.S. bee colonies were wiped out.  The year before that it was 21 percent.  These colony losses are being described as “catastrophic” by those in the industry, and nobody is quite sure how to fix the problem.  Some are blaming the bee deaths on pesticides, others are blaming parasites and others are blaming cell phones.  But no matter what is causing these deaths, if it doesn’t stop we will all soon notice the effects at the supermarket.  Bees pollinate about a hundred different crops in the United States, and if the bees disappear nobody is quite sure how we will be able to continue to grow many of those crops.  This emerging crisis does not get a lot of attention from the mainstream media, but if we continue to lose 30 percent of our bees every year it is going to have a cataclysmic effect on our food supply.

The frightening thing is that the bee deaths appear to be accelerating and they appear to be even worse in the UK and Canada…

This past winter was one of the worst on record for bees. In the U.S., beekeepers lost 31 percent of their colonies, compared to a loss of 21 percent the previous winter. In Canada, the Canadian Honey Council reports an annual loss of 35 percent of honey bee colonies in the last three years. In Britain, the Bee Farmers’ Association says its members lost roughly half their colonies over the winter.

“It has been absolutely catastrophic,” said Margaret Ginman, who is general secretary of the Bee Farmers’ Association. “This has been one of the worst years in living memory.”

Scientists have been scrambling to figure out what is causing this, and one study that was recently conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture may have some answers…

Please read the rest of the report here.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website is an obvious point of reference although a quick search by me failed to find confirmation of the importance of bee pollination for many crops, as was reported in the TIME Magazine article, namely:

Although many crops are only partially dependent on bee pollination, others, like the almond, cannot get by without it.  According to USDA, one-third of the food in our diet relies to some extent on bee pollination.

Almond: 100%

Apple: 90%

Asparagus: 90%

Avocado: 90%

I’m sure you get the message!

Tomorrow, I will present a recent essay from George Monbiot who offers his view of this major crisis.

7 thoughts on “Pity the bees; pity us.

  1. What I find totally astonishing — not to mention thoroughly demotivating — is the collusion between the politicians and the chemical industry. Europe recently instigated a two year (temporary!) ban on neonicotinoids — in spite of the UK’s opposition to the ban. Needless to say the emphasis in the USA is on business as usual.

    The mere thought of any sort of protective regulation seems to send free market fundamentalists into convulsions. And yet I was under the impression that the first duty of any government was to protect the people it supposedly represents; but clearly I don’t live on the same planet as most others.

    Speaking of planets, Happy Earth Overshoot Day to you and yours.


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