"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"
This quote, which many claim is from Albert Einstein may not be far from the truth. Especially when one mouthful in every three that we eat is directly or indirectly affected by pollination from bees.
There are several reasons for the sharp decline in bee population worldwide, including GM crop practices, increased use of herbicides, radiation from mobile phones, the Varroa mite and the Africanised honey bee.
Often, bees simply don't make it home to the hive; either because they have lost their sense of direction or because they die before they make it home. This makes it difficult to find out what went wrong. Mass deaths frequently occur in just a week.
Not much importance has been placed on these problems until recent years but the decline is now so huge (the US have seen numbers fall by 60 or 70%) that we have to take notice. As we know, money talks in the US and bees generate a pretty penny - more than $14 billion per year according to the Cornell University in New York. A lot of this money comes from migratory pollination, where colonies of 15,000 - 30,000 bees are rented to farmers and shipped round the country on contracts to pollinate crops.
The phenomenon often called AIDS for bees is technically called CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder. It's called this because the hives are deserted when the bees vanish and the all important bee colonies simply fall apart.
Worrying, the few remaining bees are full of disease and the other bees and parasites that would usually raid the hives refuse to go anywhere near them. The assumption is that the colonies appear obviously toxic.
Click here for the Wikipedia article on CCD
Here are a few comments from one specialist:-
"We are extremely alarmed," said Diana Cox-Foster, the professor of Entomology at Penn States University and one of the leading members of a specially convened colony-collapse disorder working group.
"It is one of the most alarming insect diseases ever to hit the US and it has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry. In some ways it may be to the insect world what foot-and-mouth disease was to livestock in England."
Professor Cox-Foster went on: "And another unusual symptom that we're are seeing, which makes this very different, is that normally when a bee colony gets weak and its numbers are decreasing, other neighbouring bees will come and steal the resources - they will take away the honey and the pollen.
"Other insects like to take advantage too, such as the wax moth or the hive beetle. But none of this is happening. These insects are not coming in.
"This suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is repelling them."
So the real problem is CCD. The mobile phone radiation theory has been pretty much completely dismissed now and the Africanised honey bee problems have been investigated and understood. The Varroa mite problem is an interesting one. There is a direct connection between this and CCD as the Israeli acute paralysis virus (often transmitted by the Varroa mite) is found in almost all samples of bee colonies suffering from CCD. It is not the cause of CCD but it is connected and research is ongoing.
You know a little bit more about the current bee crisis now and hopefully you are asking "what can I do?"
Raising awareness is the most important thing you can do and a good start is just appreciating how serious the problem is and telling your friends. At the moment it is really only directly affecting the beekeepers who are struggling to keep up with the demand for pollination but soon it could affect everyone - awareness will be key if widespread action needs to be taken.
If you have a garden then you can be a little more hands on; and Phil Chandler, the author of The Barefoot Beekeeper has suggested 10 things you can do to help the endangered honey bee. You can find this advice in several places on the web but I recommend this article
So that's it - be aware and help
SAVE THE BEES...................zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz