Friday, February 28, 2014

Bee Problems

I've been seeing a lot of worry about the loss of the European honey bees.  For those of you who may have missed it, Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) is a strange phenomenon where all the worker bees in a hive suddenly disappear.  Nobody knows exactly where the workers go.
Although a lot of workers I know go to bars, so try there.
There's been a lot of uproar about missing bees, partly because so many of American food crops are pollinated by European honey bees, but mostly because people want to blame some technology or another for the problem.  In spite of the fact that CCD has been around for hundreds of years, people have blamed:

Yes, I am trying to fit as many links into this blog as I can.

Seems everyone wants to blame their pet peeve for CCD.  Don't believe me?  Here's an unrelated sexual economics video that, for no good reason, throws in an unproven theory about what's causing CCD:

I don't claim to be an expert on CCD or the economics of sex (Scratch that. I do know a heck of a lot about sex.).  However, I did design a beehive video game, so I qualify as an expert in bees.  Here's a couple of things you should know about the buggers:

European honey bees are an invasive species.
The word "European" is right there in the front!  Native Americans used to call them "white man's flies."  While there are 4000 varieties of Native American bees that are doing fine, we're only cultivating the European ones.  Why is that a problem?  When you cultivate a single, invasive species you get a susceptiblity to diseases. 

Remember the Irish Potato Famines?  Potatoes were invasive to Ireland and were suddenly wiped out by potato blight.

Remember Gros Michel bananas?  They were wiped out by the Panama disease.

If we want to save our pollinators, we should diversify.

Bee hives are portable.
A while ago, I was reading about seedless grapes.  See, people like seedless grapes more, so they cost more.  How do you grow a seedless grape?  You just don't pollinate them, which becomes a problem when the neighboring farm hires a beekeeper to visit by with his hives.
Yes, that's a truck full of bees.
See, beekeepers drive their hives around to farms so their bees can pollinate the crops.  It's great for most farmers, but it screws up the plans of seedless grape growers (bees are notoriously bad at reading the signs, even if they say "DON'T POLLINATE MY GRAPES!").

So, if we want to keep our plants pollinated, we could just start driving them around more.

In short, I'm not too concerned with CCD.  Are you?

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