Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Honey bee, please don't go

We're confronting the disappearance of much that we put on our tables. Unless we want our diet confined to corn, wheat, rice, pork and chicken, we'd better take care of the bees. Bees are the main pollinators of all fruits, nuts, vegetables, and the forage crops eaten by cattle, sheep and goats. 75% of plants depend upon pollination to propagate.

We've already stretched them pretty thin due to our emperor-class, 21st century menus. Now they are in trouble.

Bees are dying off at an unprecedented rate, everywhere around the world. In one area of China, they have already disappeared. Honey production is declining. Colonies are collapsing. Why?

Scientists are urgently investigating the growing epidemic. Is it a virus? Is it a fungus? Is it malnutrition? Is it a predator? Is it exposure to chemicals? Is it something in the bee's DNA?

An AIDS-like virus is a strong possibility. Pesticides sprayed on plants and ingested by the bees is another. A single-cell parasite is a suspect. Some think it's a "perfect storm" comprised of all these things.

Any or all may play a part, and perhaps have a compounding effect, as when pesticides reduce immunity to pathogens.

We've taken the bees for granted, and now we're belatedly waking up to the fact that their impending disappearance threatens our way of life.

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