Honey bees

Over in the States honey bees are disappearing to a disease known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Basically it means bees just leave their hive and go to find somewhere to die. It’s all very Capt. Oates from Scott of the Antarctic.

Anyway, it led multinational food producer Häagen-Daz to create the website mentioned at the end of the video above.  Häagen-Daz says we rely on bees for one third of our food supply. But in recent winters over 25 percent of bees in the States have disappeared.

Various explanations have been put forward including pesticides, pollution and genetic modification of crops all weakening bees’ immune systems. Organic bees seem to be doing better than their peers. And Celcias, which has followed this story closely, notes that bees may just be feeling the stress of today’s lifestyle:

The so-called ‘colony collapse disorder’ was a final worker’s strike from a creature that’s been doing hard labour under our modern production systems for too long.

Celcias continues to note that the underlying problem may be diet.  Rolling fields of monoculture mean that bees can no longer get a diverse diet of nutrients to keep them healthy.

Here in NZ beekeepers have been watching the disease closely from across the Pacific Ocean and warning us of the dangers if it should arrive.  Sadly, given the passage of the Biosecurity and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation, it appears we may not be listening.

10 Comments Posted

  1. Trevor29 Says:
    July 24th, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    > IMHO the problem with monocultures may be a lot simpler than diet. With a lack of diversity comes a lack of alternative food sources when the one crop isn’t in flower. That would cause all sorts of problems.

    beeleepers move their hives around to deal with that problem. If there weren’t enough diversity of flowers for them to do that, I think the first you’d hear would be complaints from beekeepers about it, long before it started leading to bees dying off.

  2. IMHO the problem with monocultures may be a lot simpler than diet. With a lack of diversity comes a lack of alternative food sources when the one crop isn’t in flower. That would cause all sorts of problems.

    Trevor.

  3. Interestingly no-one mentioned global warming or climatic changes. Maybe there are multiple factors working together to alter the bees environment.

    Large scale hand-pollination will become necessary if it happens here.

  4. Another catostrophe waiting to happen ? Bees have to work ‘hard’ all the time of course, but some ‘work’ is harder than others. Like surviving under attack from pesticides, herbicides, mono-culture etc. Problems arise where concentration of orchards, vines, acres of maize, etc are grown to the almost total exclusion of other species. That may also apply where hectare upon hectare are given over to Dairying, where species diversity suffers too.
    We mess with bees at our peril. They support the biosphere, on which we depend utterly.

  5. ooops .. just noticed a typo in my previous. I meant to ask: Perhaps NZ bees are NOT so exposed to ‘fields of monoculture’?….
    Apologies

  6. While we have monoculture here, we don’t have it to nearly the extent that the Americans and Australians do, where a hives range can be completely dominated by one species of plant. Our monoculture fields are broken up by forest, stream and odd indigenous clusters of other plant life.

  7. Yes that is certainly worth considering, though I would say we have had monoculture for MANY decades now, so why didn’t it happen then? Or has it just been weakening the gene pool up to a ‘tipping point’?

  8. There was adocumentary recently on BBC TV – ‘Nature Inc’ in which had someone making the claim along the lines of Frog’s intro viz: ‘Celcias continues to note that the underlying problem may be diet. Rolling fields of monoculture mean that bees can no longer get a diverse diet of nutrients to keep them healthy.’
    Perhaps NZ bees are so exposed to ‘fields of monoculture’?

  9. Yeah, my understanding is that bees work hard because they’re workoholics, not because of anything humans do. And New Zealand bees are as diligent and hardworking as anybody else’s, so why aren’t they dropping dead too?

    And I understood this problem is happening in Australia as well. It seems bizarre that the government has even entertained the idea of letting in honey imports from Australia, when we don’t know enough about this problem to know it’s not a disease that can be carried by honey.

  10. “hard labour” – i know nothing about bees except they hurt, but was under the impression that they do what comes naturally to them, that is, going out and getting pollen and turning it into honey, or something. So this is natural behaviour – no one has been making them work ‘hard’….

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