Monday, April 23, 2007

Colony Collapse Disorder

There has been a lot in the news lately about massive disappearances of honeybees in the US and around the world. This is of particular importance, as bees are major pollinators responsible for pollination of approximately one-third of the food consumed in the United States. The phenomenon is called colony collapse disorder but the cause for it is unknown. Some possibilities being investigated are:
  • habitat loss
  • climate change (drought)
  • pathogens carried by mites
  • pesticides
  • electromagnetic radiation from cellphones or power lines (2006 study shows that such radiation can affect bee behaviour and ability to return to the hive [pdf])


15 comments:

Anonymous Coward said...

I also suspect:
-GMO crops
-atheists
-evolutionists
-margarine
-aspartame
-Al-Qaeda
-Wallmart
-Michael Moore
-video games
-liberals
-gays
-aliens
-korean scientists
-ipods
-running room
-red smarties

did I forget anything?

kamel said...

A bee rapture?

GMO crops are one of the things mentioned in the wiki article. I guess the bottom line is that nobody has any real idea what's going on.

kamel said...

It might be this elite team of Japanese hornets. The action starts around the 2 minute mark.

Anonymous said...

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Albert Einstein

Anonymous said...

First the bees leave us, then Einstein starts posting messages on bayblab from beyond the grave. What a strange world we live in...

kamel said...

Reagarding the Einstein bee quote: http://www.snopes.com/quotes/einstein/bees.asp

John Blatchford said...

I have just written a brief article about the Honeybee crisis which you might find of interest http://insects.suite101.com/article.cfm/bee_crisis

kamel said...

Thanks for the comment. There is definitely some interesting reading over there on the subject.

Bayman said...

Top agricultural worldwide agricultural products (metric tons):

Sugar Cane 1,324
Maize 721
Wheat 627
Rice 605
Potatoes 328
Sugar Beet 249
Soybean 204
Oil Palm Fruit 162
Barley 154
Tomato 120

Crops that require bees:

apples
peaches
pears
pumpkins
cucumbers
cherries
raspberries
blackberries
strawberries
almonds
zucchini
melons

Note the lack of overlap between the two lists.

Sources:
Insect Pollination Of Cultivated Crop Plants,S.E. McGregor, USDA
Wikipedia

kamel said...

I made a similar comment at John Blatchford's site (see link above) about bees and pollination of major crops, such as corn (though mine was in the context of GM foods).

The list of insect pollinated crops at the above link is quite extensive and includes 3 of the top 10 agricultural crops (soybean, oil palm and tomato, though the contribution of bees is generally <10%). There's no doubt that corn and sugar cane are extremely important crops, both in the food chain and their use in ethanol/biofuel production, and I certainly don't think humanity is doomed with the recent bee disappearances (depsite the "Einstein" quote), but I for one wouldn't mind a little peanut butter with my cornbread.

Reading a lot of the information out there, there are definitely parallels between the 'bee crisis' and the 'climate crisis', the most obvious being the arguments that these phenomena are cyclical.

The mysteriousness of colony collapse, whether agriculturally significant or not makes it an interesting topic for discussion/investigation.

Bayman said...

I agree. Plus bees are just cool.

Anonymous Coward said...

"Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees."

kamel said...

Interesting. Where is that quote from?

I thought part of the mystery of colony collapse disorder was that the bees had actually disappeared (i.e. there were no piles of dead bees around).

Bayman said...

Hmmmm...sounds like a black hole. Maybe the bees are in another galaxy on the other side of the universe.

kamel said...

Looks like colony collapse isn't a new phenomenon: The Simpsons reported on it years ago.