File this under the heading, “Environmental Problems that I do Worry About. The collapse of honeybee colonies in Virginia this past winter was devastating. Reports the Daily Press:

Virginia lost 59.5 percent of its honeybee colonies last winter, nearly double the average rate for the past decade, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The rate of loss was about double the loss for managed colonies nationally. Scientists still aren’t sure what the cause is, although they have proffered various theories: pesticides; habitat loss; a cooler, wetter climate this year; diseases such as Varroa mites and nosema infections that shorten the life of worker bees; even the proliferation of electromagnetic fields from electric lines and cell towers that interfere with navigation or suppress the immune system.

Honeybees are a keystone species. As pollinators, they facilitate the reproduction and survival of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of species of plants and the organisms that depend upon those plants. They are dying in record numbers, not only in North America but Europe.

At this stage, our scientific knowledge is so patchy that it’s difficult to suggest meaningful public policy initiatives. Virginia Tech is conducting some bee-related research but the focus is narrow, deciphering how honeybee “waggles” communicate the whereabouts of food to other bees. There are dozens of other initiatives around the country. Given the critical role of bees in the environment, and commercial crops in particular, it strikes me that the federal government, the states and land-grant universities should reallocate research dollars to bees from less pressing priorities.

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12 responses to “Save the Honeybees”

  1. I think they like cilantro. They are certainly in my backyard as much as I grow of it.
    No chemicals either.

  2. djrippert Avatar

    I had a honeybee hive under my deck all last spring, summer and fall. Some people said to kill them. Some said to find a beekeeper to remove the hive. In the end I decided to just leave it alone. There were a lot of bees coming and going but they seemed docile. By the end of last fall nobody had been stung. This spring I expected to see the bees reemerge. Nope. I guess my colony was one of the ones that died out.

    I do agree with Jim Bacon that die-offs of a large percentage of the honeybee colonies is potentially a major issue. Something is most definitely off.

  3. Neonicitinoid pesticides are the culprits getting the most attention these days as the likely cause of colony collapse disorder (CCD). The mites and fungal diseases appear to be a consequence of the weakened state of the bees from toxic chemical overload.

    Spikenard Honey Bee Sanctuary in Floyd, VA is one of the premier bee locations in the U.S. They have avoided problems with CCD while other beekeepers throughout the nation are reporting higher losses each year.

    But Spikenard’s bees are healthy because they live in a nourishing, chemical-free environment. They train a large number of people each year about how to raise healthy bees.

    This is an important issue that governments and universities should be involved with, but they are the organizations most supportive of chemical intensive agriculture. Huge political contributions and research dollars would be at risk if they showed the damage being done by all of the chemicals.

    For most categories of food processing: grains, beef, pork, and poultry, 80% or more of the total market is under the control of just 4 or 5 companies. With Bayer buying up Monsanto, over one-third of the world’s seeds and chemicals for agriculture will be controlled by one company.

    You can keep a population under control if you are in charge of the food supply. Chemical-intensive, controlled-environment growing (hydroponics) just received approval to be considered “Organic”.

    The independent farmers in small villages were a threat to the control of the French aristocracy. The word “villain” derives from the French word for those who lived in small villages. Newspeak (calling something the opposite of what it is to diminish it) started a long time ago. We are just better at it now with the help of social media.

    Jefferson thought that craftsmen and farmers with small landholdings were essential to maintaining freedom and democracy. As a farmer and scientist, he would be shocked to see what we are doing to the bees and our republic.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    so why do we believe the science when it says Honeybees are in trouble but don’t believe it when they say the climate is in trouble? Is there some way to figure out which science to believe? 😉

    Also seems like any self-respecting – REAL Libertarian would staunchly oppose the govt and higher ed…. “interfering” with the “market” …figuring this out, eh?

    1. Haha, Larry. We believe the scientists when they say honeybees are dying because their claims are based on counts of honeybees — which is a lot less complex than measuring global temperatures. Also, I would note, honeybee scientists are not making predictions, based upon their computer honeybee models, what the honeybee population will be in 80 years! Finally, I would add, there is no a massive government research-honeybee complex that depends for funding upon keeping the population in a state of alarm!!

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well heckfire Jim. just like with GW.. all you got is a bunch of scientists telling you the bees are DYING? It could well be a conspiracy to convince the govt to get involved and also gullible people like you to believe it!

    The bees are not dying… it’s a made-up thing from folks who want more money from the govt to “study” the problem and my bet is they’re going to recommend God-awful changes that will just absolutely destroy our economy!

    And oh by the way – shouldn’t we be keeping the govt out of this to start with and let the “market” figure it out like all good Libertarians espouse?

  6. TBill Avatar

    I would ask what Virginia’s herbicide and pesticide policies are. Where I live they seem to be very heavy handed with herbicides in the woods where we have jogging paths. I am guessing this is attempt to prevent tree growth near power lines.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      This is a fairly classic environment versus the economy dilemma. The folks who use the herbicides and pesticides are varied and many to include much of our food grown. Anyone who has tried to have a garden can personally relate what happens to most planted stuff when the bugs and other stuff gets to it.

      In my area – REC mostly keeps the trees and bushes down with mechanical means though I’m sure there are places where they use pesticides.

      So this is an example of whether you want government regulation or to let the “market” figure it out – Libertarian-style.

      And what govt does in breadth and scope relies on Science – scientists – to tell what the problem is… what the causes are – and how to fix it and over and over, someone’s Ox who is using the poison gets gored and it can – and does – take years for the EPA to act and even then, it’s often a weak compromise unless the chemical is a direct clear and present danger – and even then the science is often disputed… strongly by those who are using the chemicals.

      So my question is two-fold – do we want govt to regulate/remove chemicals that are deemed harmful to us and bees AND do we believe the scientists – mostly from academic institutions to tell the truth and not engage in conspiratorial behaviors to get us to ban chemicals and other stuff that
      should not be banned and if banned will hurt our economy?

      I don’t see the bee issue as fundamentally different than the climate change issue. In both cases – we have a large percentage of scientists warning of the dangers…. and urging us and govt – to act – to avert disastrous outcomes.

  7. Acbar Avatar

    “File this under the heading, ‘Environmental Problems that I do Worry About.’ The collapse of honeybee colonies in Virginia this past winter was devastating.”

    The problem is, Jim, these problems are related. Peer-reviewed science has confirmed that global warming is already contributing to honeybee colony decline. While TomH is right about the principal cause of bee CCD apparently being pesticides, consider that there’s also plenty of evidence that while the ranges of many flowers are shifting northward due to climate change, wild honey bees are not adapting to these changes, substantially stressing colonies at the southern edge of their ranges. ;

  8. TBill Avatar–/article_a1776d88-88bf-593e-bb07-0eadeda2f67b.html

    Times Dispatch article saying they see no reason for panic…but what the heck do they know? They claim the honey bee deaths are possibly not significant because there are many other types of bees.

    But each Spring I make an informal bee inventory of bees flying around on cherry, pear, and red bud blossoms. I was not happy with the bee activity this spring. I only have 2 carpenter bees eating my deck this year…

  9. this subject caught my attention kalemtezhazirlama world academic thesis review unit

  10. killerhertz Avatar

    Neonics, GMOs, golf courses, and homeowners lacing their yards w/ pesticides and herbicides. Nothing to see here.

    If you think we have a labor shortage now, just wait until all the brown people streaming over the border are forced into mandatory pollination programs instead of preparing our meals.

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