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.