Monday, April 19, 2010

Bee-Gate: The Great Honeybee Conspiracy

by Richard Crews
In recent years we have heard dire tales of loss of honeybees. Beekeepers have found thousands and thousands of hives mysteriously deserted. This pandemic, called "colony collapse disorder," has been attributed to Varroa mites (or other infections), chemicals, genetic disorders, habitat degradation, or obscure combinations of these factors. In simplest terms, it seems that the bees' heretofore heroic capacity to adapt to the threats and encroachments of civilization have simply been overwhelmed.

In China, we hear, vast fruit crops now have to be pollinated by hand--by thousands of human workers going from blossom to blossom, tree to tree, orchard to orchard. In the U.S., commercial honeybee hives may have to be trucked hundreds of miles to fill in gaps of pollination coverage--and fields and orchards are often reduced to half or less of their usual yield. Moreover, many honeybees trucked across country, die in the effort and never return home.

Claims have been made that bees pollinate a large fraction of our food; that pollination capacity is declining worldwide; and that the decline and impending demise of honeybees may be catastrophic for human food production--it may threaten the very survival of the human race.

But it turns out that, as Mark Twain said, "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Bees do not pollinate many important food crops. Moreover, many staple foods such as grains can self-pollinate or be pollinated by the wind. In fact, if there were no bees at all, the decline in global agricultural production would be about 4 to 6%.

But are bees even declining? Even in Europe and the U.S. where the most dire specific reports have been generated, the decline in local bees has been more than compensated for by increases in foreign bee populations. And in Asia, Africa, and Latin America bee-pollination has been pretty much business as usual. In fact, the average yield of bee-pollinated crops has been steadily increasing throughout the world for decades.

Clearly we gullible greens have been victims of an insidious, deceptive bee-gate conspiracy.

I am tempted to attribute this to the Republican Party, but I can't figure out how.