Disappearance of Bees

 Alex:

If you enjoy flowers, mangos, apples, peaches, onions, cashews, tomatoes or grapes, then you have the honey bee to thank for them. These foods, and dozens more food crops are pollinated by bees, specifically honey bees, according to honeylove.org . These little insects are responsible for many of the foods we enjoy, but, alas, we have learned some worrisome news in the past decade; the bees are disappearing. Our leading pollinator is dying off, and there are many speculations as to why, and none of them are good news.

The reason has many causes, and one of the causes is a new and scary phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The effect of CCD is that bee hives are mysteriously empty, and have no dead bees within to investigate. According to the Agricultural Research Service, an increase in virus-transmitting mites are often found inside of CCD affected colonies, but are not always present. The reasons are numerous, but nothing is known for sure. What is known is that the bee population is falling fast. In a TED talk about this topic, Marla Spivak spoke the truth about the frightening numbers, and showed that this has been happening ever since the end of World War II. The amount of honey-producing colonies at the end of WWII peaked at around 5.5 million hives, but now the number of hives is about 2.5 million, less than half of that. Now, sudden colony collapse may prove to be a killing blow to the honey industry, let alone the honey bees themselves. One of the many theories that is going around is that the use of pesticides increased after WWII, which was needed due to the massive, single-species fields that presented a feasting ground for troublesome insects. The other issue is the parasitic mites that were accidentally introduced to the U.S in the 1980’s. Now, with the new pesticides that we have introduced, one of the most controversial being the neonicotinoids, and the parasites that are afflicting the bees, we are forced to bear witness to the extinction of a species that is fundamental to the way we all live and eat, unless we act swiftly. Imagine a flowerless, barren wasteland; that will be this country if we do not act.

 

Matt:

CCD is not the only reason bees are disappearing. There are other reasons such as pesticides, fungicides, parasites, viruses, and malnutrition. As stated by Alex, and as stated by the USDA, many things factor into the reasons that the bees are disappearing. There are so many times when we think only of something after it has happened. This is true of killing the bees as well as anything else. Pesticide is one of the big things killing bees, and one of the many factors that can cause something like CCD. According to ecowatch.com, in June of 2013 there was estimated to be an excess of 50,000 bees found dead or dying at a shopping mall in Wilsonville, OR, and in July of the same year there was an excess 37 million honeybees reported dead on a single farm in Ontario from the dust and pollen from pesticide treated corn seeds. This is something that we need act now to stop. If we do not figure out how to stop the disappearance of bees, or we will lose so much. All of these problems are believed to lead to the disappearance of bees, but there is no one defining factor that is believed to cause CCD. Some of these things are just a natural killer of bees, and would not be quite as bad if we could stop the human part of the problem. Alterative pesticides and fungicides would be a huge fixer for the human part. If we could find a less harmful, or even a harmless pesticide and fungicide, then we could spray crops and fields without worrying about the loss of bees.

 

Michael:

So we’ve talked about pesticides and colony collapse disorder, but those can’t be the only thing that’s causing bees to disappear. In 1947 there were 6 million colonies and that declined to 2.4 million by 2008. Something else has to be causing these bees to die or disappear. Parasites are also a huge problem with the declining honeybee population. A parasite, known as varroa mites, are currently overtaking hives of wild honeybees all over the US and throughout Europe. These mites act like leeches and pull fluid from the bees. The mites spread from hive to hive because bees return to the wrong hive, and infect that hive. There is treatment, but the problem is that these mites are very hard to detect until it’s too late. Besides the varroa mites, there are many other parasites of the honeybee’s and most of these parasites that exist; we don’t have treatments for them. Viruses are also a big problem in honeybees. The honeybee doesn’t have a strong immune system, so viruses often prove fatal. So what can we do about these things in order to stabilize and rebuild the honeybee populations?

 

Alex:

Rebuilding the honeybee’s population is going to take some massive environmental effort on our society’s part. One simple change that we can all make is to plant bee-friendly plants in our yards. Bees, just like most animals, need nourishment from a wide variety of sources in order to stay healthy. If everyone would plant a bee-friendly plant, we would see bees make a comeback. Another thing we should do is learn to like some of the “weeds” that we have come accustomed to hate. Dandelions, for instance, are almost taboo to have in your lawn. If you walk around a nice suburban neighborhood, you will likely find very few dandelions, and if you do there will likely be someone spraying it with round-up. Dandelions are one of the honeybee’s staples in their diet, and beekeepers know that if their hives survive until the dandelions begin to bloom, then their bees will survive another year. Dandelions are moderately nutritious to bees, and are normally abundant if they aren’t killed off by harsh chemicals. Dandelions are members of the Asteraceae family, the same family that marigolds and daisies are from! They can’t be that ugly if they are related to those! The first step we can take is to allow those “weeds” grow instead of going full-blown eugenics on our lawn by eliminating the “ugly” plants. Who are we to decide what should grow there?

 

Matt:

Dandelions are a huge food source for bees, and they are not that ugly if maintained right. Although, just keeping dandelions in our yard is not something that will help bees. While it is nourishing to bees, only going as far as letting them live in our yards is only going to cause our yards to look bad. If you want to keep the weeds out of your yards that is fine, as long as for every weed you kill you replace it with 5 of some type of flower in a flowerbed. We need to force people to plant flowerbeds and plants that can be pollinated. We need to start our own beehives, and all have a bee garden of our own (pbs.org). This is what we need to do in order to save the bees. Imagine if everyone did this we would have huge flower fields just for bees to pollinate, each would have a huge ecosystem of bees. If we did this, the bees would have more food and be able to survive. They would all be maintained by natural methods such as cow manure, lake water irrigation systems, and of course bees. To take it a step further we need to make almost everything in our daily lives more natural. We need to work towards using more natural foods, fuel sources, pesticides, and other such things. Doing something like this would stop the killing of bees, and prevent CCD. Only by doing this can we keep bees alive and our ecosystem alive.

 

Michael:

But see there is the problem. You can’t just force people to plant flowers, nor can you force people to not kill these “weeds” in their yards. Even though it seems like a plan that could work in theory, it’s just not practical. The same goes for creating ecosystems for these bees to live. Creating huge almost endless fields of flowers would be a great idea not only for bees, but also for the community where this would happen because of the possibility of tourism increasing. However, it just isn’t practical. No community that has the climate for this to happen has the space. In order to create a viable ecosystem for these bees to live, you would need hectares (1 hectare = 10,000 square meters) of land to make this option viable, and that just doesn’t exist with the growing population. Not only does the size of these fields matter, but also the air quality. Let’s not forget that one of the main reasons the bees are dying is because of pollution in the air. This basically cuts out most of the west coast because of the amount of pollution present in the air. However, the west coast does seem to be cutting emissions, and increasing the air quality. Maybe at some point in the future the west coast will become a more viable option in these fields. However, in the current economy, it does not seem like it because of the pollutants China is causing on the coast. This is becoming more of a problem to the entire world rather than just the US and Europe, but who will do something about it?

 

Alex:

We all need to do something about it! It would be nearly impossible to make a federal law about this because this is an issue that no one takes seriously, but what we must do is inform people about this. Tell your friends, blog on Twitter or Tumblr about the problems that the bees are facing, and do it yourself. The government will not touch this until it is too late to do anything, but we have to unite as a group to make a change! If one out of ten people planted some extra flowers this summer, it would still make a difference. This needs to be a movement. We can’t rely on our government or others to make a difference, you have to make a difference!

 

Matt:

Increasing the number of flowers in a garden may help, but it will not be enough to really cause a change. We need to go farther than just planting a few extra flowers, and to do that we need the government. We need the government to put regulations in place for planting more flowers each year. The government needs to regulate the types of pesticides that are used on crops, trees, and plants that the bees feed off, and it needs to implement the use of very eco friendly pesticides or none at all. Its hard to say how much is needed, but without the help of the government this cannot and will not be accomplished in the amount of time that we have left to save the bees. We need to protest, and force the government to intervene to stop this crisis. This growing pandemic is not something that we can stop without the help of the government. We need to get helpers and followers to try and stop this we need to protest. If we do this, the government will take us seriously, and take action to stop the pandemic of CCD. If we boycott the government they would have to listen to us eventually. This seems to be what it has come down to, and the only foreseeable way to end the disappearance of the bees. As disappointing as it is, the government only realizes something when a huge group of people take action. That is what we need to aim for, and that is the only way to save bees.

 

Alex:

True, the government can help. Perhaps we should start petitions? Sites such as http://www.thepetitionsite.com/. This site seems to have a lot of petitions about animals, whether preserving the natural habitats of animals or punishing those who injure animals. This cite has had many success stories, such as convincing Kellogg’s to stop extracting Palm Oil from rainforests for use in their foods. Palm oil is used in the processing of different foods, and is used in a range of products.

The problem is that if we took this route to get the government involved, it would have to be at a large level; if we did this on a local level, it would not be enough. If we could only spread ideas quickly through some sort of media that everyone is a part of…

Ah! Social networking is a powerful tool. We could create a link to this website and try to spread the word around through the internet about our cause and the catastrophe that is imminent if we do not begin the change now. If we were to spread the ideas through twitter, Facebook and Myspace (just kidding) we could get our word out quickly!

 

Michael:

But the problem is no one is taking action into this. You see all around different celebrities talking about all sorts of problems like people starving in other countries or living conditions in other countries. This is the problem with today’s society. We all try to focus on fixing problems outside of our own without really looking into our own problems first. Bees contribute into the production of most of our food supplies and they help with a lot of the food most of us eat on a daily basis. Foods like apples, almonds, pumpkins, and many other fruits and vegetables will begin to disappear and rise in price as bees continue to die. Not only would these foods begin to disappear, but jobs would begin to disappear as well. Bees contribute to 14 billion dollars to crop production each year. Without these bees, those people that harvest those crops, and even those that distribute the food to your local grocery store would lose their jobs. So at this point I don’t think it’s just on the people to do things. I believe the government needs to step in and mandate bee protection. Whether that means controlling the levels of pesticides or banning certain pesticides outright. But another way to spread light on this topic is to get those that people look up to the most to start getting involved. Celebrities have an unbelievable amount of influence. Whether it be political influence or even just flat out telling people to do something, most people will follow that. These figures that appear in most everyday life, need to stop focusing on things to better other countries, when their own country is going downhill and fast.

But celebrities can’t do all of this on their own. Currently the pesticide industry is a booming 30 billion dollars and more each year and that is from 2007. These companies need to take charge of their pesticides and make them friendlier to bees. Most of these pesticide companies are currently trying to jump through hoops with congress to throw doubt that their product is contributing to this crisis and claiming that their product is bee friendly when it contains the neonicotinoids that are the very chemicals killing them. These companies need to take action now and find better alternatives that are bee friendly. It may be costly for them, but they need to think about how big the bee industry is and without it, most of their products would be deemed useless.

 

Matt:

I am sensing a consensus of opinions on how we should get the government to step in to stop the crisis, but what should we have them do? We could have the government to force people to plant flowers that bees can use for pollination. It is already being done, but it does not seem to be enough. This is the dilemma that we seem to have found. We need the governments help, but what should they do? One of the first things would more than likely be telling the American public about CCD, and the problems it raises. It will be just like when the government puts out travel warnings, no one will listen. That again begs the question of what we should have them do. I believe their needs to be laws put into effect to protect the bees. Bees may never actually die off completely, but there will be very few of them. This will destroy much of the farm industry, and we would lose many foods that we love today. We can save many bees from this if only we would all stand up against this tragedy, get the government to help, and work together to create a more bee friendly world. If we do not do protest and do what we can now our children will never be able to see things like flowers or enjoy the sweet taste of honey.

 

Michael:

I agree. I believe the government needs to come in and place laws limiting the use of pesticides and maybe even giving tax incentives to people that chose to plant certain flowers. Now obviously this isn’t a long-term fix either. This is more of a band-aid fix that will hopefully help the in the mean time while scientists devote their time into figuring out a long-term fix. But there lies the last problem. The government is putting very small amounts of money into this research that could end up giving people more jobs and creating more exports for our country. Overall, I think the government is the way to get this situation under control, but how they do it is something that can be debated even further. Whether they start to fund research into bee friendly pesticides, or a ban on pesticides containing the neonicotinoids all together.

 

Alex:

I like that idea, it may be a band-aid fix, but it is definitely a start. We could make incentives to plant flowering plants in the countryside in the ditches. My mother used to plant flowers in our ditch when we lived in the country. Some plants can grow in wet ditches or even along streams. Even cat tail’s, a bizarre swamp plant, can give pollen to honey bees, and a considerable amount at that. If the government were to give incentives to counties that planted flowering plants of some kind in ditches, it would counter-act the monoculture of plants that is causing unneeded stress on the bee population. The best thing is that some flowers, such as perennials, can bloom every year again and again. The Hosta, a plant my mother loves and hates, simply does not die. Plant one of those and an entire yard will be taken over by those things in a few years! If we would just plant some flowers that bloomed at different times of the year, that would be great. I think lobbying by bee-keepers and others that are concerned will definitely cause someone in the government to do something about this. I was talking to someone today, and here in a Muncie neighborhood an acquaintance of mine is thinking about setting up a bee hive next semester. The neighbors actually approve of this, because it seems that the disappearance of the bees has not been overlooked by everyone! There is still hope!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s