One third of everything we eat is a result of honey bee production. They transfer pollen from plant to plant, fertilizing blossoms and allowing them to set fruit. This partnership of pollinator and plant is essential to life. Even cattle fed on alfalfa depend on bees. More than 90 of our main crops and all fruit rely on honeybees. The value of what the bees do has been put at an estimated $14 billion a year to the United States economy alone.
Suddenly the bees have started disappearing. Scientists call this phenomenon the “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) . Bees fly off in search of pollen and simply do not return. They vanish without a trace. Researchers say that the bees are dying in the fields of exhaustion or disorientation but the bees are never found, leaving only the queen bees, the eggs and a few workers.. This is unusual considering that bees are highly social insects. They never leave their eggs and the queen to fend for themselves.
From October 2006 , more than a quarter of America’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost -- tens of billions of bees, according to the Apiary Inspectors of America, Across America the UK, Germany Greece , Italy , Poland , Portugal, Switzerland and Spain and other countries that use pesticides hundreds of millions of their bees have disappeared. India and Brazil has reported cases as well. Britain's once had 25 native species of bumblebee, but three of those have been wiped out and 10 more are now "severely threatened", The loss of species could lead to sweeping changes in Britain's countryside, with many plants disappearing and the production of crops such as raspberries, oil-seed rape, runner beans and broad beans sharply curtailed. Bees carry out pollination worth around $400 million to Britain's farmers each year
There is a food catastrophe in the making.Many years ago , Albert Einstein 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."
Most of us remained quiet when the cheetah disappeared . We ignored the disappearance of the vulture and the sparrow. The wildlife trade is now the largest form of trade in Asia and each animal will be gone in ten years. We refuse to look at the damage done by fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers clamour for more and the agriculture ministry panders to ignorance. DDT might be banned in the world, but continues to be used in India. It is known to kill every species including humans but is ignored in the name of containing malaria. Every time we lose a species, our food security is at risk. But if we lose the bees, we lose everything.
Three factors have been isolated for this disappearance: mercury,pesticides and genetically modified crops Bees make excellent biological geiger counters. They are monitors of the local environment. Foraging honey bees crawl into flowers coming into contact with naturally-occurring materials in the environment as well as manmade pollutants including heavy metals and pesticides. These stick to their hairy bodies and are carried back to the nest cavity where they often become incorporated into the beeswax, pollen and honey . Researchers use honey bees to collect pollutants including heavy metals, radionuclides and pesticides, which are concentrated within their nests and can be analyzed using chemical analytical instrumentation.
scientists mapping the honeybee genome have found thatbees do not have genes that take poisons out of their systems or many disease-fighting genes. Poison accumulation can make them inebriated, dizzy and cause death.
Power plants are the largest unregulated source of mercury emissions releasing 48 tonnes of mercury into the air annually. The United States, China and India are the largest producers of environmental mercury and this poison circles the earth just as radiation from nuclear plants does. In recent years mercury contamination in wildlife has expanded significantly. Dr. David Evers, wildlife toxicologist of the Biodiversity Research Institute says, "We are finding mercury accumulation in far more species, and at much higher levels, than we previously thought was occurring. This poses a very real threat to the health of many wildlife populations, some of which are highly endangered.” Scientists have already studied mercury levels in bees from 20 bee populations coming from industrially contaminated areas as well as from uncontaminated areas. They found a significant increase in levels in bees from the contaminated area.
Even at low levels of exposure, mercury can permanently damage the brain and nervous system and cause behavioral changes in animals and people. It is possible that it is affecting the sensitive brains of honey bees. When stem cells in the brain are exposed to 5 to 6 parts per billion of mercury, these cells simply shut down . These cells are absolutely crucial in building the brain in infancy and beyond.
Millions of tones of pesticide are used annually. Bees might not be pests, but that is not a distinction made by pesticides. In fact there are very few fields where bees can forage without being poisoned.
Recently published views is that bees are falling victim to nicotine-based pesticides specially the pesticide imidacloprid, which when applied to the soil is absorbed by plants tissues. It is used in fleapowder,termite eradication,insect repellents,seed coatings. In 2005, the National Institute of Beekeeping in Bologna, Italy, found that pollen obtained from seeds dressed with imidacloprid contains significant levels of the insecticide, and suggested that the polluted pollen might cause honey bee colony death
Analysis of maize and sunflower crops originating from seeds dressed with imidacloprid show that the insecticide was carried back to honeybee colonies. The effects of imidacloprid o insects are consistent with the symptoms of CCD and has lead to a partial ban in France. researchers at the University of Hohenheim are studying how bees can be poisoned by exposure to seed disinfectants. In France, the Ministry of Agriculture commissioned an expert group, the Scientific and Technical Committee for the Multifactorial Study on Bees (CST), to study the intoxicating and sometimes fatal effects of chemicals used in agriculture on bees. Researchers at the Bee Research Institute and the Department of Food Chemistry and Analysis in the Czech Republic have pondered the intoxicating effects of various chemicals used to treat winter rapeseed crops. Romania suffered a severe case of widespread bee intoxication and extensive bee mortality from deltamethrin in 2002. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even has published standards for testing chemicals for bee intoxication.
Most beekeepers affected by CCD report that they use antibiotics and miticides in their colonies. Some reports indicate that “organic” beekeepers are not affected by CCD, despite proximity to non-organic beekeepers that have been affected. According to the President of the American Beekeeping Federation, CCD is due to pesticides only.
Genetically modified crops,maize, wheat, have been found to kill butterflies, so it's possible bees are affected as well. l For instance , the bacterial toxin in genetically modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the parasites to gain entry.Greg Ciola wrote in his book Beware of the Coming Food Apocalypse, "In one German study done at the University of Jena they tested bees on a field of genetically engineered rapeseed . The bees were released onto the crop and then took the pollen back to their hive and fed it to young bees. When scientists analyzed the bacteria in the gut of the young bees they discovered that it contained the same gene traits as those of the modified crops. How many honeybees are now pollinating on all genetically modified crops? When bees start dying off, it's only a matter of time before men do too!"
So what do we do? Start stockpiling canned goods, water and guns? Stop using pesticides or buying pesticided grain. Learn about mercury poisoning. Plant as many flowering plants as possible.