Friday, July 25, 2008

Looking for the Honey Bees

My recent research in the wonderful world of pollen has taken me down a path I didn’t expect to go down. It was one of those moments where one thinks, “If it were a snake it would have bitten me.”

I do a lot of classes, presentations at conferences and talks at various agricultural group meetings. Though people hear it on the news and read about it from time to time and have concerns, it is a big topic in the agriculture community. Why are the honey bees disappearing?

At first it was called Disappearing Bee Disease and it was an event that happened from time to time. Suddenly all the bees would evacuate their hive and not return. I spoke with Dr James Tew about it a few years ago at a conference and at that time he changed his view from calling it a disease to calling it a malady.

Two years later there seemed to be a mass exodus of honey bees from an apiary in Pennsylvania which went way beyond the malady that Dr. Tew described in his article. Though it was still being called Disappearing Bee Disease at that time, it soon became known as Colony Collapse Disorder and it was being discovered in other states. It was on the move.

In previous years, there always seemed to be something that endangered the honey bees; tracheal mites, intestinal bacteria, brood disease and the worst were the varroa mites. Later it was found that the varroa mite was the vector a whole string of viral pathogens, further decimating honey bee colonies.

Early research in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) showed that honey bees were now hosts to viral agents that had never been seen in honey bees before. Their best guess was that CCD was caused by a compromised immune system (like an acquired immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS) possibly brought on by the bees having come into contact with too many herbicides and pesticides. The bee industry was loading their colonies with all sorts of chemicals for several years trying to control the varroa mite. The mites became resistant to one chemical and than the beekeepers switched to a different lethal miteacide agent. Chemicals like fluvalenate and Cumaphos.

Killing mites on a honey bee is difficult. It is like trying to kill a monkey on your back without killing yourself in the process. Arachnid mites are not all that dissimilar to honeybees.

All the research at that point seemed to point to chemicals as the key to CCD, but then someone started dissecting the bees and they found that were starting to get darker inside and that their digestive tracts were a total mess.

As with the human diet, if something is wrong with the food you eat your health will soon tell the tale. Diets are responsible for all sorts of human conditions, diabetes, malnutrition and cancer to name a few.

Honey bees consume three things; water, nectar that they turn into honey, which is their source of carbohydrates and pollen which is their source of protein. Researchers are putting two and two together and are starting to think that the bee food may be responsible. But what possibly has changed in their food supply. Could it be that pollen from GMO crops with terminator gene technology is killing out honey bees?

It seems that there is no longer any corn in North America that hasn’t cross pollinated with a GMO variety. Consider what is going on with the other crops where Farmer A is not using any GMO crops and Farmer B across the road is using it. Honey bees will fly over two and a half miles while collecting pollen and nectar. That leaves a lot of room for GMO pollen to get mixed with non GMO pollen. This action also waters down the purity of the non GMO seed and may further alter the genetic make-up of the GMO seed.

In the mean time the unsuspecting honey bee is chowing down on this Franken-food, with altered nutrition values. The honey bees are circling the drain and Monsanto has the Department of Agriculture in its back pocket.

Monsanto GMO products need to be pulled and agriculture needs to be purged of this threat to nature once and for all, though with cross pollination so prevalent already it may be one genie that we can’t get back into the bottle. The only salvation may be not planting anything for a year and then using a seed bank after we are sure no one grew anything in their back yards,


Blogger MissKris said...

I've been concerned about honey bees for a long time now. I have 3Mason Bee houses on the south side of the house to try to encourage the survival of that species - they're thriving, thank the good Lord. On all my walks with my grandsons, I've been noticing a lot of dead bumblebees littering the sidewalks. I'm hoping they haven't been hit by something similar to what the honeybees have been undergoing. Each Spring, when my Mason Bees come out of 'hibernation', I write a post encouraging others to set up houses for them, too. I get a lot of Google hits whenever I do, and ORblogs as well. We humans are the Earth's caretakers...I try to do the best I can. And I'm not an environmentalist, per se...I just love this ol' ball of mud we call "Home."

5:32 AM  
Blogger Nulaanne said...

I have always been nervous of geneticly altered food. Hormones in milk, faster growing grains, ect. Just think if GMO is doing that to the bees and other animals, what it is doing to us. I really belive in the phrase "just because we can does not mean that we should."

7:25 AM  
Anonymous jb said...

Are your bees doing alright this year? I am not seeing very many of any type--a few bumble bees and a few wild ones at my son's in Gearhart. Are there a lot of GMO crops around here--flowers, etc?

8:12 AM  
Blogger weese said...

ugh. I mean how could anyone really believe that something altered genetically could be better. what the hell is the matter with people.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was it GMO's that were banned in Europe for the sake of the bees? I was under the impression that a certain pestacide, still used on crops here in the US was found to be impacting the bee population in Europe. Parts of Europe have banned the use of this currently.

neonicotinoids and Bt biopesticides

Interesting now to consider absolutely GMO's

I Like your plan, guy. Certainly an emergency now and thank goodness for seed banks.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous jb said...

Also, will this information be suppressed by the mainstream corporate press? It wouldn't surprise me one bit if it was. Also, the neocons will probably refute it with some of their babble because of course it will impact the giant agricultural corporations that have a stranglehold on our food supply.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

Oh I can't even talk about this without getting super pissed, I am so tired of being afraid of my food.
I used to read the literature from Nature's, how GMO would drop their seeds on farms that refused to use their seeds and then force them to pay for them when they found it in their crops. Or the "tomato" that was genetically engineered with a pesticide so it would "naturally" fight off insects, the FDA wouldn't classify it as food. ugh.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Colonel Panic said...

Lets just blame it all on Monsanto. Because its a corporation. I work for the corporation. I should be blamed. For it all.

Sky is falling. No it isn't. There is a whole lot wrong with the scenario guy described. Not wrong in accuracy but wrong in the solution. Let it run its course. The GMO pollination cant be stopped the genie is out of the bottle. But in time the GMO strains GO TO SEED. They evolve naturally because nature will always overtake what man creates. Its your theme- GUY. Its rust. Rust occurs on metal that man created. The metal was strong. The rain came and the metal becomes earth again. I like it.

3:38 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I blame Monsanto for all the ills in agriculture from rBGH in the milk that may be making out kids grow too quickly. I mean 7 years old is way to young to be getting a first period. I blame them for making Ambien, an amnesiac drug that is supposed to put people to sleep, instead they are raiding their refrigerators at night and going for drives in their cars and remembering none of it in the morning. I blame them for Asperitane (sp) which seems to cause short term memory loss and is a possible cancer causing agent. I blame them for Round Up Ready Crops that can resist one of the nastiest farm chemicals on the planet. What happens if that gene somehow ends up in weeds? I blame them for Terminator genes. I also blame corporate mega farms for demanding this evil shit from Monsanto in the first place. I'm sure Monsanto will be feeding people Soylant Green once we achieve the major agriculture failure that is currently in the works. Monsanto is a cradle to grave corporation.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous colonel panic said...

Its people that are the problem, guy. Always remember that.

Just too damn many of us and we refuse to cut back on our rates of reproduction to get our population down to a manageable billion or so.

Even if agriculture could feed everyone comfortably on the planet (it could) the messed up nature of the geo political world would still continue to use food as a form of currency and/or coercion. Its only the ever increasing scarcity of ALL resources that makes this possible.

I wish monsanto would seed our atmosphere with anti fertility chemicals that made most adult men and women on the planet infertile. Just one generation is all I ask. Sure there would be a productivity drop as the population declined and smaller GDP (no more moonshots, ahh) but the planet would suddenly be able to support humans comfortably again. Crazy dreamer I am that I think this already may be happening..

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question...(or two)what does GMO stand for? And if researchers think it is gmo, why have they ruled out the water aspect? Is it prevalent on the east coast as well? Years ago I took a course in honey bees (about 30 years lol) Got to work with them. heck back then they were just learning about the "dance"
Loopymama who has to work today.

12:10 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

GMO = Genetically Modified Organism

CP, if Monsanto would stop making it easier for factory farms to disregard nature and make it possible for production to go way beyond what could be supported naturally, we would have a natural population modification in alignment with what foods are available to the region.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Colonel Panic said...

no offense guy but you are dreaming. Babies having babies doesn't stop when there is a shortage of food. In fact just the opposite occurs- food shortages decrease the education level and birth control availability because the focus becomes merely avoiding starvation.

This is a grim topic indeed that you have chosen!

9:10 AM  
Blogger weese said...

its people...aauuugghhh.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Mike S said...

We really felt the bee loss here when the bees from PA weren't as abundant as needed for the wild blueberry barrens.

Guy, CP....between the two of you lies the truth. But as with all insults to nature, nature is often unforgiving when forcibly altered. What concerns me about Monsanto(and others) is that in some parts of the world they tend to ignore their own policies. Once enough $$$ are injected into any operation, human frailty known as 'greed' develops, corporations are in no way immune to this syndrome.

The REAL answer is to have another mass extinction of species (namely US)and start over. Seems to happen with some regularity, why should Homo Sapiens fare differently in the end. Our mental abilities have allowed us to adapt to the needs of nature to survive; sadly, we're now so arrogant we expect nature to adapt to us. She will adapt to survive as well: global renewal via extinction of troublesome species, as I said above, us.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the waves from cell phones can cause brain cancer in humans and interfere with navigation systems, can they also interfere with the bee brain/navigation system to a point that they can't get back to the hive?

10:03 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

CCD happens to bees that live outside of cell service range. It is happening in yards that are very remote.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that picture is disgusting

11:14 AM  

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