Bee and Wasp Die-off – Our Inescapable Need to Steward All Life

So few wasps this year that I've found only one nest at all - abandoned.

So few wasps this year that I’ve found only one nest at all – sadly, it too was started, then abandoned.

Dear Readers!

This morning I read this information-packed article by Tom Philpott at Mother Jones discussing bee colony collapse. Philpott’s article reviews past and current research on bee die-off. He gives multiple links to sources, and MJ provides links to earlier ‘bee die off’ articles, including this one focused on bumblebees – also down in number!

New research implicates fungicides – not as the culprit to replace other culprits, but as culprit to add to the list of other already identified toxins we introduce to the world of bees. Bees are having a very tough go in our chemicalized world.

I suspect a good many people ‘sort of’ realize ‘we’ve got a bee die-off problem’. But as with other highly troublesome questions that challenge high consumption, convenience seeking, lifestyles, it seems we briefly acknowledge an issue, then go back to living the very lives that could conceivably do us in – along with the rest of the living world!

I get the feeling many don’t yet realize just how big a deal ‘colony collapse disorder’ – and other means of bee demise – are.

I’ve spent most of my life directly or closely involved in farming or gardening so I’m generally aware of what plants need to ‘do their thing’ in order that we’ve got the food we rely on. But the consequences to our food supply – if bees are reduced in number to point they’re simply unavailable – is so mind-boggling to me that I don’t even try to imagine it.

A brief thought experiment serves to let me know – if any chemical we’re using in homes or on land is suspect re bee die-off, we’d best do without the ‘convenience’ of that chemical a.s.a.p.

Few articles on bee-die off these days take side-trips to mention wasps, but a few years ago sometimes wasps were mentioned. I don’t have a bee colony to observe, but I do have wasps. What I see – if it’s an indication of what’s happening to bees – is not good.

The immediate region I live in is mostly ranching with lots of backyard gardens including fruit trees so there’s minimal use of ag industry chemicals. However there’s LOTS of use of  ‘lets have pretty lawns‘ chemicals, along with ‘if we don’t like it – lets kill it‘ attitudes toward annoying insects and other critters. Herbicides, pesticides, etc. take up lots of retail shelf space in season.

I’ve lived here just short of 10 years. When I arrived wasps were plentiful and annoying. I’ve not used poisons, but as suggested, many in my neighborhood use these routinely. I have no idea what’s affected the wasp population but I’ve watched them go from annoying to almost none.

Nests are started, abandoned, re-started. As the photo of two nests demonstrates – an abandoned wasp nest is empty of life. I’ve not seen a genuinely thriving nest for several years, but find more and more abandoned. Each new season, there are fewer wasps around to attempt nesting.

So far, ‘wild’ bees have handled fruit trees in bloom. I’m waiting for the year, however, when this is not the case. It’s possible to hand-pollinate back yard garden veggies and theoretically could be done even in larger plantings. I don’t think we want to do that with fruit trees and shrubs!

One tendency of humans is to ask of a problem: “Does this threaten or interfere with thriving for me – or my group (immediate tribe), or human life (tribe human)?”

If the answer is ‘not directly’, we often conclude, “So then, I can ignore this issue.”

The trouble with that line of thought is that it fails to understand very real interdependency of all life. One could say we’re choosing to be, or to remain, ignorant. Choosing ignorance is probably not wise.

In the end, all life thrives or does not, and our doing so depends on thriving earth – all of it – from desert to forest, from soil to sky. 

It’s not only ‘me’, ‘tribe family’, ‘tribe nation’,and ‘tribe humanity’ that deserve and need stewardship. We are inextricably entangled with a larger on-earth tribe – ‘tribe life’.  Stewardship that stops short of attention to all life not only risks consequences of bee die-off; it risks – well, simply put – ‘everything’.

My Best! -MaggieAnn

(I didn’t mention my observations on bumblebees. In recent years they’ve also disappeared. I may see one a year, and I’ve got a yard chock-full of vegetation. The occasional bumblebee of some type should be routine.)

Postscript: Further on bee die-off, August 9, 2013, Bryan Walsh at TIME, in this article, “The Trouble with Beekeeping in the Anthropocene” summarizes threats to bees, and reviews history of human-bee interdependency. The article is an abbreviated version of his longer article that’s behind a pay-wall, available to TIME subscribers. Walsh’s focus in the abbreviated version is on economic value of bees. He speaks of beekeeper strategies he believes will keep domestic honeybees thriving – although at expense and with difficulty. The article is informative – well worth reading.  However, I have a concern.  I believe Walsh is over-confident, or perhaps too cavalier, or too ‘cheery’, or simply not ‘tuned into’ the unknowable consequences of biodiversity lost to extinction (?). At least in his abbreviated version, he doesn’t mention – for example – ecosystem roles filled by non-honey bees and other insects as discussed here; nor does he mention roles of wasps (valuable predators) as discussed here. He seems at least ‘slightly’ aware, and may contradict the optimistic tone of his own piece in his final remarks: “We are a species that increasingly has omnipotence without omniscience. That’s a dangerous combination for the animals and plants that share this planet with us. And eventually, it will be dangerous for us, too.” But what I take as a ‘c’est la vie’ style in his abbreviated version, does not challenge the public to re-consider lifestyle and expectations. He may trust “someone with expertise will figure this out” (?).  If that is his confidence, I’m afraid it’s widely shared.  Convenience-lifestyle-oriented priorities of our broad culture seem inclined to want to leave ‘real problems’ up to others. There is nothing in his abbreviated article that encourages readers to take responsibility for stewarding life. Life that not only shares this planet with us – but underlies our own ability to thrive.

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About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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8 Responses to Bee and Wasp Die-off – Our Inescapable Need to Steward All Life

  1. You really make it appear so easy together with
    your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually something that I feel I’d by no means understand.

    It sort of feels too complicated and very huge ffor me.
    I’m having a look forward to your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the hang of
    it!

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      For me, and from what I observe for nearly everyone, the precarious reality of life on earth (especially if we humans are to thrive) feels “too complicated and very huge”. “Life on earth” I’m sure will continue. The question becomes “To what extent will humans – with our awareness, language, and ‘interfering’ ways – be around to both enjoy and look after the whole affair?” Is it possible we might chase “fun and comfort” so thoroughly that earth can’t handle the size and scope of our toxic and wasteful consumption? At the present time it’s my belief that there’s a level of “maturity” available to the human species that is essential if civilization is to thrive. This is a maturity we barely recognize. Contemporary convenience and fun-seeking beliefs and practices of most who are materially comfortable – from ordinary consumers to the world’s most wealthy – are ‘adolescent’. To my observation, on an imagined trajectory of human species potential, we’ll need to become more deeply reflective and honest about our capacity to either wreak havoc or tenderly steward. I think we need to “grow up” – but I don’t imagine this means we’ll become ‘sensible and boring fuddy-duddy’s’. Rather, I imagine we might share authentic and fulfilling trial and laughter. In the grand scheme of things, bee and wasp stewardship may seem a singular and small issue – but bee/wasp stewarding represents *all* stewarding of *all* biodiversity and it’s role in our very survival. (Or so it seems to me!)

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      Thanks for this, Lucas. I apologize for neglecting getting to my blog at least to review comments! I really appreciate your offering an extended discussion on ‘chem trail’ and the general topic of geo-engineering to address climate issues. It’s a topic I’ve not spent time with, in part because (for me) the science is complicated and I’m short of time to delve into it. I take summarizing reports from others as my source of info, such as the extended interview you link. (I’m also cautious of C2C as a source but they’ve been on target from time to time. I’ve not listened to the full interview, but what I did hear seemed to include reputable stats and sources for info offered.) Thanks again!!

  2. Bad News people !
    The problem is ABSOLUTE ” Chem Spraying” or “Cloud Seeding” or weathermodification.com!
    Everyone needs to look up more often and SEE those 747’s 5, 6, or 7 of them in each State spraying Aluminum and Barium. No kidding people they have been doing it for years, AND denying it for longer AND people like me who speak out about it end up in land fills. See the attached youtube link and for Heavens sake make sur everyone you know see’s it talks about it and most important LOOK THE F UP sometime! Those are NOT con trails.

    Warning: this aint santa claus or easter bunny crap!
    Act now or we will most certainly die tomorrow.

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      I caught your message with the interview link on chem trails and geo-engineering before checking this message. Thanks again for the contribution!

  3. Vicki says:

    Maggie, all bee and wasps populations are down here, too. Lots of spraying, yes, but also the flowers are coming out when they are hibernating, then they come out and the flowers are gone, wilted in early high heat or freak frosts one day to the next or both, so they starve. The climate change is hitting them very hard here. I think we are averaging that the pollen and the pollen eaters are about 2 weeks out of synch with each other here now. So, since there is plenty of water here in Oregon, i’ve watered anything that flowers. Anything. Then a neighbor brought me a hanging basket of “pretty” flowers from the store and i’ve noticed that not one insect has so much as alighted on a single flower. Right after that, i read that humans are creating flowers without pollen so that they aren’t messy on lawn furniture, outdoor tables, etc.. So, it doesn’t get much greedier than that. Yikes!

    • maggieannthoeni says:

      You’re right, Vicki – to also bring up the ‘out of sync’ aspect. Never thought of that and wonder if and how it applies here. A neighbor who’s lived here ‘for ages’ mentioned to me a few weeks back that our wild sunflowers were blooming about 3-4 weeks early. He travels back toward the mountains for his work and said (a few weeks ago) they’re in strong bloom along the highway well beyond our little local area. Maybe a few creatures are able to adapt – we’ve had small yellow and yellow-black warblers (or small finches?) visiting the sunflowers and until recently they’ve only shown up later – toward ‘true’ autumn.

      The summer of 2012 we had fruit – cherries, pears, peaches, apricots and apples in abundance so pollinators were obviously available. This spring virtually all the fruiting trees bloomed while frosts were still happening and we’ve got no fruit at all to speak of! Frosts catching trees at near bloom or at bloom state is a long-time situation here so partly it’s ‘normal’. But apples often ‘make it through’. I had one young apple tree bloom quite fully – never saw a single bee and not a single fruit has developed. (Tree is so young might have been better for it to go one more season without fruiting but … not one!) Also, some trees ‘take a break’ from time to time … hard to say re different factors … but NOT hard to say there’s a silence due to absence of bees along with a corresponding absence of wasps. (Found one more nest yesterday that looks like the ‘non-functioning’ one in the photo.)

      As to flowers that don’t carry pollen – I can get cranky at our foolish, foolish way of treating nature itself like the proverbial fussy housekeeper who can’t tolerate anything out of place or a bit ‘messy’. I only learned recently that some owners of backyard fruit trees spray them with a commercial product used by orchardists to reduce or eliminate fruiting. Some of these people own yards with fruiting trees and are allergic to the pollon, but others just don’t like the ‘messiness’ of first the pollen and then the fruit itself. They just want ‘a pretty shade tree’. I learned about this by accident while researching fruit tree management. The product is – if I remember correctly – a ‘tree’ hormone meant to prevent fruiting but “is entirely safe for bees”. Of course, of course – why would we imagine it could harm them!

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