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Monday, June 30, 2008

Conspiracy Corner - What's Happening To The Honey Bee?

I remember a few years hearing rumors and scattered stories about how the honeybee was disappearing and how cell phones and cell phone towers were the culprit and it is a concern because cell phone radiation does have an impact on the bees navigation but does not prove that it is the cause for whole colonies just dying off. In April 2007 a team of scientist at Landau University placed some phone bases in two hives and timed how long it would take for the bees to return to the hives. After 45 minutes one group had still not returned to their hive. Again this hinted at a cause not a real reason. From PBS Nature:

Silence of the Bees

In the winter of 2006, a strange phenomenon fell upon honeybee hives across the country. Without a trace, millions of bees vanished from their hives. A precious pollinator of fruits and vegetables, the disappearing bees left billions of dollars of crops at risk and threatened our food supply. The epidemic set researchers scrambling to discover why honeybees were dying in record numbers — and to stop the epidemic in its tracks before it spread further.

There are many reasons for the disappearance of the honey bee but the one that stuck out to me is the use of Genetically Modified Organism Crops or "Terminator Seeds". Here is a pretty persuasive argument from Global Research.ca:

Genetically modified seeds are produced and distributed by powerful biotech conglomerates. The latter manipulate government agricultural policy with a view to supporting their agenda of dominance in the agricultural industry. American conglomerates such as Monsanto, Pioneer Hybrid and others, have created seeds that reproduce only under certain conditions, often linked to the use of their own brands of fertilizer and/or insecticide.

The genetic modification of the plant leads to the concurrent genetic modification of the flower pollen. When the flower pollen becomes genetically modified or sterile, the bees will potentially go malnourished and die of illness due to the lack of nutrients and the interruption of the digestive capacity of what they feed on through the summer and over the winter hibernation process. MORE!

What scientist found out is that something was in effect poisoning the bees and giving them what amounts to colon cancer in humans. Now this was a big breakthrough but it did not explain the millions of hives that were abandoned and that other bees and predators would avoid. With no real answers scientist started calling the phenomena CCD (colony collapse disorder) then in September 2007 another major breakthrough was discovered. From PBS Nature:

A team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Pennsylvania State University, The Pennsylvanis State Department of Agriculture and Columbia University linked CCD with a virus imported from Australia, IAPV or Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. Over the past three years, genetic tests on bees collected from stricken colonies around the U.S. found the virus in 96 percent of bees from hives affected by Colony Collapse Disorder.

IAPV had not historically been present in U.S. bees. In fact, it was only discovered in Israel in 2004, the same year American beekeepers started importing packaged bees from Australia. “Before that, nobody knew to look for it,” says Jeff Pettis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory. “As people began to look for it, it was found in China, Australia and the U.S.”

A CCD-affected hive

Though the discovery of IAPV was indeed a big break, the case of CCD was not closed. Scientists have much to learn about how IAPV affects colonies and how it may have brought on CCD. Future studies will tell researchers if they are dealing with just one strain of the virus or if there are other strains to look for. “Discovering the IAPV was a lead but not the end of the story. We’re looking at IAPV as a marker. It’s there. It’s present in colonies but viruses by themselves are not known to be that dangerous,” says Pettis. Pettis and other scientists believe that CCD is not caused by one single factor, but by a whole host of forces including pesticides, parasites, poor nutrition, and stress. Any of these may leave bees vulnerable to infection and make IAPV lethal. “We know all of those things have affected bees in the past,” says Pettis. “We have to look at combination's of factors.” MORE!

Now while the bees do not need us we do need them and here is what the impact of losing the honey bees would have on our nation...Again from PBS Nature:

Silence of the Bees
Impact of CCD on US Agriculture

In the winter of 2006/2007, more than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies — accounting for tens of billions of bees — were lost to CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. This loss is projected have an $8 billion to $12 billion effect on America’s agricultural economy, but the consequences of CCD could be far more disastrous.

The role honeybees play in our diet goes beyond honey production. These seemingly tireless creatures pollinate about one-third of crop species in the U.S. Honeybees pollinate about 100 flowering food crops including apples, nuts, broccoli, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, melons, as well as animal-feed crops, such as the clover that’s fed to dairy cows. Essentially all flowering plants need bees to survive.

A daunting question is: If honeybee colonies were so severely affected by CCD that pollination stopped, could we lose these crops from our markets and our diets forever?

Honeybees pollinate about 100 flowering crops.

“We’re not there yet,” says Jeff Pettis of the USDA. Pettis says there are steps researchers and beekeepers can take to ensure that the bee population doesn’t plummet to catastrophic levels. “One measure beekeepers have been taking is to keep bees as healthy as possible — improve nutrition and reduce stress,” says Pettis. Consumers have become more demanding and expect to have fruits and vegetables available to us all year round. In order to achieve this, commercial beekeepers haul colonies of honeybees across the country so their pollination services can serve all growing seasons. The season may start with almonds in California, then move on to apples in the Northwest, cranberries in New Jersey and Maine blueberries. The constant moving about places stress on the bees. In addition, certain crops that may be in the pollination circuit, like cranberries and cucumbers, are not very nutritious for bees. To keep the bees healthy, beekeepers may need to ease up on their schedules. It may be necessary for them to retire bees for a particular season or skip some less nutritious crops entirely.

Of course, nature has its own safeguards to keep crops pollinated. Honeybees aren’t our only pollinators. Other insects and birds pollinate fruits and vegetables as well. The problem with other natural pollinators picking up the bees’ slack is that today’s agricultural industry has simply grown too large for them to keep up. The leviathan that is U.S. agriculture creates a huge demand for pollination. Because honeybees are relatively mobile and can pollinate a generous number of crops, they have been the ideal recruits to meet our crop needs. But honeybees don’t perform such feats naturally without help — lots of it. Commercial beekeepers keep colonies nourished and healthy and move their hives from state to state in semis, selling their pollination services to farmers at a premium. MORE!

Now when you add up all the factors we can see this is more of a major concern than a conspiracy theory but it ultimately boils down to rampant capitalism and the honey bees just being another victim left in its wake!


Make sure you go over to PBS Nature and check out the complete video "The Silence of the Bees". It's a really interesting an informative watch!

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