Vanishing Bees

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.
—Albert Einstein*

Courtesy of Maine Department of Agriculture

Did you know that honey bees are vanishing worldwide? Like frogs, they are being decimated by disease. While frogs are dying because of a fungus, bees are dying from a fungus combined with a virus.

Bees are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the world’s commercial plants, from fruits and vegetables to coffee and cotton. Over the past few years, more than one in three honey bee colonies has died nationwide, posing a serious risk to our natural food supply in a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). When a hive experiences CCD, the honey bees desert their hive and die. CCD symptoms have been recorded in over 35 states across the U.S. and in many other countries worldwide.

Why are Bees so Vulnerable to Disease?

Some of the possible causes for weakening the bees’ immune systems, include pesticides, inbreeding, monoculture (planting one crop only), and the possible effects of genetically-modified crops.

To learn more about this problem, you might want to check out a new documentary called Vanishing of the Bees that is coming out this month, narrated by actor Ellen Page. The film is being screened in selected towns and cities nationwide.  Here is a link to Bill Maher’s recent interview with Ellen Page.

And to help the bees, you might want to consider planting bee-friendly flowers or putting a bee house in your garden, and limiting your use of pesticides and herbicides. Buy organic honey from local bee keepers, or even consider becoming a beekeeper yourself. Please see the Honey Bee Conservancy for more ideas about how you can help bees.

The parallel between the plight of the frogs and the plight of the bees has an eerie similarity, although the specific issues involved are quite different. While scientists might have some clues about what is killing the bees and frogs, the underlying cause for why they are so are vulnerable to disease is still unknown. As one commenter on a NY Times blog wrote,“People should be aware of how fragile are the links in the eco-system, how interdependent all life is, and how simple, small things can quickly create major threats to all we take for granted.”

*As quoted by Bill Maher in his interview with Ellen Page