We live on a complex world. The things we do in one part can have unintended repercussions elsewhere. Easy to find examples abound everywhere. The Treaty of Versailles, for example, was created to keep the allied nations safe from German aggression after World War I. Unfortunately it was so onerous that it led directly to the formation of the Nazi Party. And we all know how well that went. When looked at in retrospect it was a lousy party. No DJ, boring food and a lot of silly uniforms. Not my kind of party at all. Another fun one is the implementation of those whimsical “3 Strike Laws.” If you missed the memo here’s how they work. Commit three felonies and get a Class X Felony sentence (think 25 to life). Good idea you say. Keep those heinous bastards off the streets, you say. So what’s the problem? Criminals figured that, as long as they were facing life anyway they may as well hedge their bets and eliminate any witnesses. The publication Criminology and Public Policy found that murder rates increased dramatically in areas where three strike laws were in place. Why not? If the victim can’t ID you then you might stand a better chance of getting away. And, sadly, that’s not a bad bet for a criminal to take. In Illinois alone almost half of all murder cases go unsolved.
All of this helps set the stage where I can tell you that bees are a leading cause of pollution on farms. No, I’m not insane. You see, bees, those buzzy little suckers, pollinate flowers that have pesticides on them and then they drag those pesticides over to flowers that did not have pesticides on them. Bees really don’t know which is which so you can’t blame them. But the result is that organic farms are losing their certification due to the fact that those pesticides are showing up on their foods.
Let’s look at some other fun bee facts.
Fact: If all the bees disappeared humanity would die within four years. That’s how long it would take for all the food to disappear from lack of pollenization and for us to starve.
Fact: Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate due to pollution infesting their pollen.
Fact: Zombie bees have been discovered in Washington state.
It is the second fact that we will be taking a harder look at today. While circumstantial evidence is good enough for the Internet, science demands a bit more proof. Science does, people do not.
John Entine over at Forbes first takes a gander at the political fallout of the second fact above.
Last December, the European Commission banned the use of neonicotinoids, often called neonics, for two years. The moratorium, support for which was channeled by the precautionary politics that now dominate science-based regulation in Europe, took effect just as numerous new studies–including one released this past week–shed increasing doubt on the belief that neonics play a central role in bee health.
Now the focus is on Canada. Farmers in the United States are worried about a domino effect if regulatory officials there buckle under pressure from anti-pesticide campaigners to ‘do something,’ which could result in copycat moratoriums.Bee_pollen
The “crisis” prompting this hand-wringing is an age-old problem in the bee world: unpredictable bee deaths. They’ve occurred periodically for more than a century, but reemerged with a vengeance in 2004 in the California almond fields, where casualty rates briefly approached 60 percent. Beekeepers called it the ‘vampire mite scare’ because of its likely link to varroa mites—parasites that feed on the bodily fluid of bees—and on miticides used to combat them.
So the miticides kill the parasites and the bees?
No, they don’t. Well, they do kill the parasites. Just not the bees.
Right now the bee population is averaging a 35% die-off per year. That is up from a normal 15% that occurs naturally each winter. Bees live for just a few weeks. Even if a hive were decimated it could completely restock in less than three months. So something else is happening.
The villain du jour is neonics, artificial pesticides that do exactly what they’re supposed to do. But when Scientific American looked at all the data related to neonics and bees they came up with a flat line. In other words, no discernible effect. Not that there was no effect on bees, there was and is, but that it’s so negligible that regular restocking solves the problem.
And bee keepers restock regularly. See the short life span as reason #1.
As John noted, the facts do not support the fear.
But Canadian officials seem resistant to the emerging research trends. After the European Commission voted to ban neonics, anti-GMO, green and farm groups turned their focus on Canada, pressuring Ottawa to follow suit. The responsible agency, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), aware that the evidence fingering neonics was spotty, vacillated, issuing an ambiguous assessment of reported bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec and a vague “notice of intent” order to regulate neonics, without providing details.
It’s not as if PMRA does not have comprehensive research on neonics to rely upon. If bee health problems were critical in Canada, they would certainly have surfaced in the country’s 19 million acres of canola farms, which are mostly in the west. Beekeepers who forage their bees in the canola fields, where neonics are used far more heavily than on Ontario and Quebec farms, say their hives are generally thriving. Apart from a single, ambiguous case, there have been no reports of bee kills attributable to neonics in all of western Canada in recent years.
Another problem with banning neonics is that farmers are forced to replace them with government mandated pesticides that are more, not less, deadly to bees and humans. That is called stupid in case you missed the memo.
One reason that bees seem to be having a hard time has to do with the world’s love of almonds.
There are not enough bees in California to pollinate all the almond plants so farmers import millions of them each season. That means that bees are rounded up, smoked for travel, stuffed in trucks and shipped across the country. That results in millions of stressed out bees. And a large percentage of those stressed out buzzers die. So they need to ship more to cover the losses.
You can see where this is headed.
If all you’re doing is substituting fatally stressed out bees with more fatally stressed out bees you’re not really helping.
Now add in neonics, GM foods and climate issues and you start getting somewhere. While, on their own, none of those issues could have a major impact, stressed out bees, just like stressed out humans, are more prone to contracting illnesses.
The good news is that I’m not the first person to figure this out and there are solutions. The most obvious is to increase the bee population in California. The second is to reduce, not necessarily eliminate, the amount of chemicals they, and eventually we, are subjected to.
And in places where sane policies like that exist bees are now thriving.
Another thing that stresses out bees is honey harvesting. And now, two dudes in Australia, have put an end to that.
Jenni Byall at Mashable has the whole story.
Two Aussie inventors have enticed investors like bees to a honeypot with their new beehive creation.
Father and son duo Stuart and Cedar Anderson have created a contraption that allows for honey on tap straight from the backyard hive.
The Flow Hive is billed as “a revolution” — because it allows for beekeepers to extract honey without opening the hive or disturbing the bees.
See also: First ever public jetpack company zooms onto Australian Stock Exchange
The Flow Hive has already received more than $2 million in funding from more than 5,000 investors on crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo since the project listed on Feb. 22. The men were hoping to raise $70,000 by April, a goal they have exceeded by 3,135%.
“This really is a revolution. You can see into the hive, see when the honey is ready and take it away in such a gentle way,” the pair wrote on the campaign’s site.
In regular beekeeping, the beekeeper would have to dress in protective gear, use a smoker to sedate the bees, then crack the hive open before manually processing the honey. It was a dangerous and time-consuming process.
The Flow Hive’s frames consist of partly-formed honeycomb cells, allowing the bees to complete the comb with their wax before filling the cells with honey. To retrieve the honey from the cells, you turn a handle that causes the cells to spit vertically, creating a channel where the honey can drip down to the base of the frame and out of the hive.
The Flow frames can be used instead of existing frames; they can even replace the entire hive. The Flow Hive is clear so that you can watch the bees at work, turning nectar into honey.
The Andersons, from Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, who have spent 10 years developing the design, have been blown away by the response. “It’s gone nuts, I can’t keep up,” Stuart told Good Food. “Clearly we underestimated the interest.”
For $600 you can get the complete Flow Hive, which comes with everything you need other than the actual bees. The frames alone will set you back between $230 and $460.
The pair are thrilled that their invention has generated so much buzz.
“We hoped it would work, our tests showed it should work and we turned the handle and waited,” Stuart told the ABC about their first success with the product.
“When the first pour of fresh honey came out filling the jar, that was a moment.”
CLICK HERE if you want to invest or purchase a hive.
By the way, natural honey, not the crap you buy at Wal-Mart, has many healing properties and is excellent for your health. It contains sugars that the body can easily use, it heals wounds and so on. The stuff you buy at the store …. does none of those things.
Lisa Winter at I fucking Love Science explains.
Honey that is sold commercially has typically been exposed to heat, pasteurization, and processing in order to kill any yeast and prevent fermentation. While this treatment that makes the honey safer and more shelf-stable, it also gets rid of the honey’s benefits, including antimicrobial and antihistamine properties. Raw, unrefined honey that has the most benefits will come directly from beekeepers, though some specialty shops may have it available.
In other words, summing this all up, there’s hope if the problem is dealt with rationally.
Yeah. You’re right. We’re fucked.