Revelation 6:6 – Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four
living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and
three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil
and the wine!”

“Although the Bible plainly speaks of great famine in the last days,
the prophetic words of Revelation 6:6 states that the olive and grape
harvest will not be damaged. In general, breeders have assumed that
grapes were either completely self-fertilizing or were cross-
pollinated by wind, so that in either case insects were considered of
no value. The grape harvest will not be affected by the missing bee
population. Bees and other insects play a minor role in olive
pollination; wind moves most of the pollen from tree to tree. And
neither will the olive harvest be affected by CCD. Most olive
varieties are self-fertile, but increased production often results
from cross pollination. [Therefore] grape and olive oil production
will only be minimally impacted by Colony Collapse Disorder while much
of the fruit, vegetable and nut production will be severely reduced
resulting in famine.”
‘Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left.”‘

Air Pollution Destroying ‘Scent Trail’ That Leads Insects to Plants – Scientists
BY Lee Dye  /  April 16, 2008

Air pollution is killing the smell of flowers, possibly eliminating
the “scent trail” that helps guide those terribly important
pollinators, like bees, to the plants that depend upon them for
survival, scientists believe. The discovery could be one of several
factors in the “colony collapse disorder” that is wiping out honey
bees around the world.

While it is still too soon to determine the full impact of air
pollution on the symbiotic relationship between insects and the
flowers they pollinate, researchers at the University of Virginia are
confident they have shown that pollutants are killing the scent trail,
and that could turn out to be extremely significant.

Before the industrial revolution, the trail extended at least half a
mile from the flower, but today at that distance “it’s almost
completely destroyed,” said Quinn McFrederick, a doctoral candidate in
biology at the university and lead author of a study that in the
current issue of the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Scientists have known for some time that airborne chemicals like
ozone, hydroxyl and nitrate radicals — major components of smog —
alter the chemicals produced by flowers that give them a specific
smell. But it had not been known how that affected the trail that
helps lead insects to the flowers.

Scents that could travel for more than half a mile in the 1800s now
probably travel less than about 600 feet, according to Jose D.
Fuentes, professor of environmental sciences at the university and a
co-author of the study. “This makes it increasingly difficult for
pollinators to locate the flowers,” Fuentes said.

In a telephone interview, McFrederick said that the scent trail
deteriorates even very close to the flowers, and that could discourage
insects, especially bees and moths, from even sampling the flower to
see if it contains the nectar they need for survival. And if they pass
up the flower, it will not receive the pollination it needs. So both
the pollinator and the pollinated suffer.

At this point the research consists of a mathematical model into which
the researchers inserted the known impact of various pollutants on the
molecules carrying the scent. They then extrapolated out to various
distances to see how much of an impact that would have. But the
findings haven’t been tested in “the real world,” McFrederick said. He
and his colleagues hope to do that soon.

The findings are intriguing, but no one knows just yet how significant
they really are. “We don’t know an awful lot about how insects
actually use these scent trails,” he said. It’s unknown how much of a
scent is required for the insect to detect it, and no one knows yet if
new chemicals produced by the reaction between scent molecules and air
pollution can also be detected by insects. But what is known is that
scent is important in the overall pollination process.

Bees and many other insects depend primarily on vision to find
flowers. But the researchers believe that scent, detected at a
considerable distance from the flowers, may tell the insects the
general direction of the flowers. So insects travel in that direction
until they actually see the flowers, and then depend on scent somewhat
to decide which flowers to visit. Some other insects, like nocturnal
moths, must depend very heavily upon scent, McFrederick said.

And if that’s the case, “plants that don’t depend on animal
pollinators would do better than plants that do depend on animal
pollinators,” he added. “Plants that can be pollinated by the wind, or
plants that can pollinate themselves, might be expected to do better
and their populations to be proportionally larger in areas where there
is lots of pollution.”

Two years ago an international team reported that a 25-year study had
found just that in the Netherlands and parts of Great Britain. When
the bee population declined, so did the plants that the bees
pollinate. “In Britain, pollinator species that were relatively rare
in the past have tended to become rarer still, while the commoner
species have become even more plentiful,” Stuart Roberts of the
University of Reading said at the time. “Even in insects, the rich get
richer and the poor get poorer.”

That trend has not been documented yet in the United States, but there
is no debate about the decline in pollinators. In the last 50 years
the bee population that farmers depend upon for pollination has
declined by 50 percent, according to one study. The decline in bees
has been blamed chiefly on diseases spread by mites and viruses, as
well as pollution and pesticides. Now, scientists may be able to add
another element to the equation. The sweet aroma coming from flowers
isn’t as strong as it once was, and that’s probably happening all over
the globe.

Quinn S. McFrederick
email : qsm5a [at] Virginia [dot] edu

The Honeybee Mystery: What it means to you and your investments
BY Eric Cheshier  /  April 29th, 2007

“Here at the Stockmasters, we’re always on the lookout for an angle,
some type of edge that we can use to make money (and help you make it
too). In this day and age, the best way to achieve investment success
is by knowing something that others don’t, to try and find something
that the investment community has overlooked. With that said, in the
past year, 24 U.S. States have reported Honey Bee disappearances.
Government and science authorities are calling it “Colony Collapse
Disorder (CCD).” Beekeepers have reported losses ranging from 60% to
100% of their bee colonies.

A third of the food supply in the United States – and actually the
world – is directly related to the honey bee: Fruits, vegetables,
nuts. Then, there is probably another 30% of what we consume that
honey bees are indirectly responsible for. Take the milk we drink. The
cows have to have hay. They need to eat clover and alfalfa to produce

This isn’t just an isolated incident in the United States. Canada has
reported similar problems, along with Spain, Poland, and Brazil. In
Taiwan, about 10 million bees have gone AWOL in the last 2 months.
Part of the mystery is that beekeepers aren’t finding millions of dead
bees in the hives and on the ground; they are flying away from the
hive and not returning. Experts have no real idea what causes CCD.
Alleged causes range from harmful pesticides and increased solar
radiation through ozone thinning, to falling queen fertility and use
of unauthorized bee treatments. German researchers recently suggested
mobile phone radiation may interfere with bees’ “navigation systems”,
resulting in an inability to find their way back to the hive. A
recently published report is blaming ‘Varroa mites”, which have
piercing and sucking mouthparts and feed on the blood of honey bee
adults, larvae and pupae. Historically, there have been times when the
honey bee population has decreased, but nothing comparable to the
current crises.

This article is not all about gloom & doom though. I am optimistic
that if the problem gets bad enough, the human race will find away to
fix it. The real question here is how can you prepare yourself, and
profit, from what could be a global food shortage?

First, let’s talk about how to prepare yourself and take a lesson from
the Church of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. They
believe that there will be a massive starvation – and they might get
their wish this time. Every Mormon I’ve met has massive stockpiles of
food in their basement and is obsessed about canning equipment. What
I’m trying to get at is it wouldn’t hurt to stockpile some food, just
in case the stores run out.

Now let’s get to the fun part – how can you profit from a global food
shortage? It’s a daunting task, but I think you will find that the
results are quite intriguing. The most obvious place to start is:

The Futures Market: I won’t lie and tell you I am an expert in the
futures market. My specialty is Stock Mastery. But you’re about to get
a crash course of what will and will not be profitable in the futures

CATTLE – Like I said earlier, Cattle depends on Hay, Clover & Alfalfa
as food sources. Take away the food source, and we have less supply in
a high demand market.
COCOA – Don’t worry, your chocolate isn’t going anywhere. Cocoa,
derived from the Cacao plant, pollinates from small insects.
COFFEE – In most instances where pollination of coffee was studied,
the honeybee was the most important – however, Africanized ‘killer’
bees can also do the job, and in some cases do it better. There is an
Arabic coffee bean that self pollinates.
CORN – Corn does not require bees for pollination, however, corn
prices may inadvertently increase because of the lack of other foods
GOLD 100 OZ – This would be the classic panic buy if the honey bee
issue does turn into a major problem.
SOYBEAN – Prepare yourself for meals of Tofu. Soybeans self-pollinate.
SUGAR – no dice, sugar doesn’t rely on the honey bee.
ORANGE JUICE – Gold mine! Or is it? As Billy Ray Valentine (Trading
Places) would say: Yeah. You know, it occurs to me that the best way
you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people. Would Orange
Juice be affected by the lack of honey bees? That’s a tough call.
Navel oranges don’t need bees, but a lot of other orange varieties do
need bees to pollinate their fruit. The problem is, OJ futures have
already had a huge run-up in the last year because of the late frost
that killed the greater part of crops. The run from $100 to $200 has
since corrected to around $150, but the price is still high.

If you’re not familiar with the Futures market, here is a good site to
view charts and quotes

Now that we’ve covered the futures market, let’s delve into the world
of Stocks. You don’t have to be an Economics major to realize that if
1/3 of the food supply turns up missing this summer, our economy will
most likely enter a recession. Here is a list of stocks in the Farm
Produce industry; this sector would most likely get hit the hardest.
My top pick from the list is (FDP), Fresh Del Monte Produce. I can’t
give you all the answers on this one or this article is going to turn
into a novel, so do a little research and use your best judgment:

To summarize: if you’re the bull type, your best bet is to go with the
Commodity futures market. My assumption is Gold, Corn, Cattle, Coffee,
and Orange Juice could have an edge. If you’re the bear type, look for
Farm Produce stocks, or any stocks that could indirectly be affected
by the honey bee drought.

The ballot is still out on whether or not the disappearing honey bees
will actually cause a global impact or not. More data will come in the
summertime when farmers report their yields (or lack thereof). There
is also a huge debate on whether other pollinators can take the place
of honey bees. I recommend keeping a very close eye on the situation,
and take steps to prepare yourself.”



NO ORGANIC BEES LOST?  /  2007 05 06

Sharon Labchuk is a longtime environmental activist and part-time
organic beekeeper from Prince Edward Island. She has twice run for a
seat in Ottawa’s House of Commons, making strong showings around 5%
for Canada’s fledgling Green Party. She is also leader of the
provincial wing of her party. In a widely circulated email, she wrote:

“I’m on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly
Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including
commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The
problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in
their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to
the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make
more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.”


GENETICALLY MODIFIED,1518,473166,00.html
Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
BY Gunther Latsch  /  03/22/2007

A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers
worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually
assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture
and the economy could be enormous.

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He
sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association
(DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers
Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist’s trade, it is
practically his professional duty to warn that “the very existence of
beekeeping is at stake.”

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the
varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread
practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and
practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker,
is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the
journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report)
with an Albert Einstein quote: “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

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein’s
apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee
populations throughout Germany are disappearing — something that is
so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the
United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the
economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing
the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use
of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

Felix Kriechbaum, an official with a regional beekeepers’ association
in Bavaria, recently reported a decline of almost 12 percent in local
bee populations. When “bee populations disappear without a trace,”
says Kriechbaum, it is difficult to investigate the causes, because
“most bees don’t die in the beehive.” There are many diseases that can
cause bees to lose their sense of orientation so they can no longer
find their way back to their hives.

Manfred Hederer, the president of the German Beekeepers Association,
almost simultaneously reported a 25 percent drop in bee populations
throughout Germany. In isolated cases, says Hederer, declines of up to
80 percent have been reported. He speculates that “a particular toxin,
some agent with which we are not familiar,” is killing the bees.

Politicians, until now, have shown little concern for such warnings or
the woes of beekeepers. Although apiarists have been given a chance to
make their case — for example in the run-up to the German cabinet’s
approval of a genetic engineering policy document by Minister of
Agriculture Horst Seehofer in February — their complaints are still
largely ignored.

Even when beekeepers actually go to court, as they recently did in a
joint effort with the German chapter of the organic farming
organization Demeter International and other groups to oppose the use
of genetically modified corn plants, they can only dream of the sort
of media attention environmental organizations like Greenpeace attract
with their protests at test sites.

But that could soon change. Since last November, the US has seen a
decline in bee populations so dramatic that it eclipses all previous
incidences of mass mortality. Beekeepers on the east coast of the
United States complain that they have lost more than 70 percent of
their stock since late last year, while the west coast has seen a
decline of up to 60 percent.

In an article in its business section in late February, the New York
Times calculated the damage US agriculture would suffer if bees died
out. Experts at Cornell University in upstate New York have estimated
the value bees generate — by pollinating fruit and vegetable plants,
almond trees and animal feed like clover — at more than $14 billion.

Scientists call the mysterious phenomenon “Colony Collapse
Disorder” (CCD), and it is fast turning into a national catastrophe of
sorts. A number of universities and government agencies have formed a
“CCD Working Group” to search for the causes of the calamity, but have
so far come up empty-handed. But, like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an
apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, they are
already referring to the problem as a potential “AIDS for the bee

One thing is certain: Millions of bees have simply vanished. In most
cases, all that’s left in the hives are the doomed offspring. But dead
bees are nowhere to be found — neither in nor anywhere close to the
hives. Diana Cox-Foster, a member of the CCD Working Group, told The
Independent that researchers were “extremely alarmed,” adding that the
crisis “has the potential to devastate the US beekeeping industry.”

It is particularly worrisome, she said, that the bees’ death is
accompanied by a set of symptoms “which does not seem to match
anything in the literature.”

In many cases, scientists have found evidence of almost all known bee
viruses in the few surviving bees found in the hives after most have
disappeared. Some had five or six infections at the same time and were
infested with fungi — a sign, experts say, that the insects’ immune
system may have collapsed.

The scientists are also surprised that bees and other insects usually
leave the abandoned hives untouched. Nearby bee populations or
parasites would normally raid the honey and pollen stores of colonies
that have died for other reasons, such as excessive winter cold. “This
suggests that there is something toxic in the colony itself which is
repelling them,” says Cox-Foster.

Walter Haefeker, the German beekeeping official, speculates that
“besides a number of other factors,” the fact that genetically
modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of
cornfields in the United States could be playing a role. The figure is
much lower in Germany — only 0.06 percent — and most of that occurs
in the eastern states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and
Brandenburg. Haefeker recently sent a researcher at the CCD Working
Group some data from a bee study that he has long felt shows a
possible connection between genetic engineering and diseases in bees.

The study in question is a small research project conducted at the
University of Jena from 2001 to 2004. The researchers examined the
effects of pollen from a genetically modified maize variant called “Bt
corn” on bees. A gene from a soil bacterium had been inserted into the
corn that enabled the plant to produce an agent that is toxic to
insect pests. The study concluded that there was no evidence of a
“toxic effect of Bt corn on healthy honeybee populations.” But when,
by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a
parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a
“significantly stronger decline in the number of bees” occurred among
the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated Bt poison feed.

According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the University of
Halle in eastern Germany and the director of the study, the bacterial
toxin in the genetically modified corn may have “altered the surface
of the bee’s intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the
parasites to gain entry — or perhaps it was the other way around. We
don’t know.”

Of course, the concentration of the toxin was ten times higher in the
experiments than in normal Bt corn pollen. In addition, the bee feed
was administered over a relatively lengthy six-week period.

Kaatz would have preferred to continue studying the phenomenon but
lacked the necessary funding. “Those who have the money are not
interested in this sort of research,” says the professor, “and those
who are interested don’t have the money.”

Hans-Hinrich Kaatz
hans [dot] kaatz [at] zoologie [dot]

Everything you didn’t want to know about Colony Collapse Disorder
BY Peter Dearman  /  May 2nd, 2007

It sounds like the start of a Kurt Vonnegut novel:

Nobody worried all that much about the loss of a few animal
species here and there until one day the bees came to their senses and
decided to quit producing an unnaturally large surplus of honey for
our benefit. One by one, they went on strike and flew off to parts

Among the various mythologies of the apocalypse, fear of insect
plagues has always loomed larger than fear of species loss. But this
may change, as a strange new plague is wiping out our honey bees one
hive at a time. It has been named Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, by
the apiculturalists and apiarists who are scrambling to understand and
hopefully stop it. First reported last autumn in the U.S., the list of
afflicted countries has now expanded to include several in Europe, as
well as Brazil, Taiwan, and possibly Canada. (1)(24)(29)

Apparently unknown before this year, CCD is said to follow a unique
pattern with several strange characteristics. Bees seem to desert
their hive or forget to return home from their foraging runs. The hive
population dwindles and then collapses once there are too few bees to
maintain it. Typically, no dead bee carcasses lie in or around the
afflicted hive, although the queen and a few attendants may remain.

The defect, whatever it is, afflicts the adult bee. Larvae continue to
develop normally, even as a hive is in the midst of collapse. Stricken
colonies may appear normal, as seen from the outside, but when
beekeepers look inside the hive box, they find a small number of
mature bees caring for a large number of younger and developing bees
that remain. Normally, only the oldest bees go out foraging for nectar
and pollen, while younger workers act as nurse bees caring for the
larvae and cleaning the comb. A healthy hive in mid-summer has between
40,000 and 80,000 bees.

Perhaps the most ominous thing about CCD, and one of its most
distinguishing characteristics, is that bees and other animals living
nearby refrain from raiding the honey and pollen stored away in the
dead hive. In previously observed cases of hive collapse (and it is
certainly not a rare occurrence) these energy stores are quickly
stolen. But with CCD the invasion of hive pests such as the wax moth
and small hive beetle is noticeably delayed. (2)

Among the possible culprits behind CCD are: a fungus, a virus, a
bacterium, a pesticide (or combination of pesticides), GMO crops
bearing pesticide genes, erratic weather, or even cell phone
radiation. “The odds are some neurotoxin is what’s causing it,” said
David VanderDussen, a Canadian beekeeper who recently won an award for
developing an environmentally friendly mite repellent. Then again,
according to Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the top bee specialist with the
Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture, “We are pretty sure, but
not certain, that it is a contagious disease.” Their comments
notwithstanding, most scientists are unwilling to say they understand
the problem beyond describing its outward appearance. Perhaps a
government or UN task force would be a good idea right about now. (3)

According to an FAQ published on March 9, 2007 by the Colony Collapse
Disorder Working Group based primarily at Penn State University, the
first report of CCD was made in mid-November 2006 by Dave Hackenberg,
a Pennsylvania beekeeper overwintering his 2900 hives in Florida. Only
1000 survived. Soon other migratory beekeepers reported similar heavy
losses. Subsequent reports from beekeepers painted a picture of a
marked increase in die-offs, which led to the present concern among
bee experts. (2)

The name CCD was invented by vanEngelsdorp and his colleagues at Penn
State. It reflects their somewhat medical view of the situation. The
BBC suggested in a sub-headline to a story on CCD that the problem
would be more aptly named the “vanishing bee syndrome.” This proposal
may have merit, considering how mass opinion polls influence policy
these days. (4)
News of the CCD problem hit all of the major media networks in
February 2006. A widely run Associated Press story said reports of
unusual colony deaths have come in from at least 22 states, and that
some commercial beekeepers reported losing more than half of their
bees. The same story informed that autopsies of CCD bees showed higher
than normal levels of fungi, bacteria and other pathogens, as well as
weakened immune systems. It appears as if the bees have got the
equivalent of AIDS. (5)

An April 15, 2007 story in The Independent reported that the west
coast of the U.S. may have lost 60% of its commercial bee population,
with an even greater 70% loss on the east coast. The same story said
that one of London’s biggest bee-keepers recently reported 23 of his
40 hives empty. But, the U.K. Department of the Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs was quoted as saying, “There is absolutely no evidence
of CCD in the UK.” (6)

One must wonder where the truth lies considering the level of
sensationalism prevalent in the British press. Case in point, this
same story (among several others, to be fair) attributes a juicy but
dubious quote to Einstein: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of
the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” (6)(7)

Einstein, in all likelihood, never said that, but if he did, it is a
justifiable exaggeration. Bees certainly are important, and it will
get ugly if we lose them. “It’s not the staples,” said Jeff Pettis of
the U.S. Agricultural Research Service. “If you can imagine eating a
bowl of oatmeal every day with no fruit on it, that’s what it would be
like” without honeybee pollination. (8)

The beekeeping industry underpins the American agricultural industry
to the tune of $US 15 billion or more. The picture is similar in many
countries, especially in the West. Honey bees are used commercially to
pollinate about one third of crop species in the U.S. This includes
almonds, broccoli, peaches, soybeans, apples, pears, cherries,
raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, and strawberries. Other
insects, including other kinds of bees, may be used to pollinate some
of these crops, but only bees are reliable on a commercial scale. If
the bees go, we will see a change for the worse at our local
supermarkets. (1)

Of course everyone is hoping for a quick solution to appear, and
tantalizing reports have emerged. Recent military research at Edgewood
Chemical Biological Center claims to have narrowed the likely cause of
CCD to a virus, a micro-parasite or both. This work used a new
technology called the Integrated Virus Detection System (IVDS), which
can rapidly screen samples for pathogens.

These virus laden samples were sent to UC San Francisco, where a
suspicious fungus was also discovered in them, suggesting the
possibility that the fungus is either an immunosuppressive factor or
the fatal pathogen that kills the bees. These “highly preliminary”
findings were announced in an April 25, 2007 Los Angeles Times story
with the headline, “Experts may have found what’s bugging the bees.”
The story called it “the first solid evidence pointing to a potential
cause,” and even noted that “there is reason to believe this fungus
can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin.” (10) (25)

One wonders why the trade name of a pesticide made it into such a
story, but the presence of pathogens in bees should come as no
surprise to anyone who has been keeping up to date on bee health.
Nearly all beekeepers use a variety of chemical and pesticide
treatments on their hive boxes out of sheer necessity. A pantheon of
mites, fungi and microbes prey on bees. These pests are predictably
developing resistance to the chemical treatments we use to fight them.
If the new IVDS results are conclusive and lead to a silver bullet
solution, that will be wonderful, but such a simple model of CCD is
unlikely to be the real key to saving our prime pollinators. (9)

It is worth noting that, while CCD has been presented to the media as
a sudden new problem, these same theories about causative infections
have already been presented to explain previous bee die-offs,
especially those in the spring of 2005, which were attributed to the
now infamous varroa mite, a.k.a. “vampire mite,” which began infecting
American honey bees in 1987. (31)

About the size of a pinhead, and with eight legs, it feeds on the
blood of adult bees like a tick, and even worse, it also eats the bee
larvae. Varroa is the bane of beekeepers everywhere except China,
where it originated, and the honey bees have local resistance. In a
case of sadly ironic timing, Hawaii just reported its first case of
varroa a few weeks ago. (26)

LiveScience senior writer, Robert Roy Britt wrote in a May, 2005 story
about the mite: “Up to 60 percent of hives in some regions have been
wiped out. Entire colonies can collapse within two weeks of being
infested. North Carolina fears it is on the verge of an agricultural
crisis. No state is immune.” (11)

A Science Daily story dated May 18, 2005, and sourced to Penn State,
purported to explain why varroa was so bad. Entitled, “Bee Mites
Suppress Bee Immunity, Open Door for Viruses and Bacteria,” it
explained research into levels of ‘deformed wing virus,’ a mutagenic
pathogen that is believed to persist in bee populations because it
makes guard bees more aggressive. Bees of a given hive normally carry
low levels of this virus, but the Penn State researchers found that
virus levels shot sky high during secondary infections if, and only
if, the bees also had varroa mites. It should be clear why the varroa
mite is on everyone’s list of things to examine in the fight against
CCD. (12)

Another perspective

Sharon Labchuk is a longtime environmental activist and part-time
organic beekeeper from Prince Edward Island. She has twice run for a
seat in Ottawa’s House of Commons, making strong showings around 5%
for Canada’s fledgling Green Party. She is also leader of the
provincial wing of her party. In a widely circulated email, she wrote:

I’m on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly
Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including
commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The
problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in
their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to
the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make
more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.

Her email recommends a visit to the Bush Bees Web site at Here, Michael Bush felt compelled to put a message to
the beekeeping world right on the top page:

Most of us beekeepers are fighting with the Varroa mites. I’m
happy to say my biggest problems are things like trying to get nucs
through the winter and coming up with hives that won’t hurt my back
from lifting or better ways to feed the bees.

This change from fighting the mites is mostly because I’ve gone to
natural sized cells. In case you weren’t aware, and I wasn’t for a
long time, the foundation in common usage results in much larger bees
than what you would find in a natural hive. I’ve measured sections of
natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter. …What most
people use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter.
If you translate that into three dimensions instead of one, it
produces a bee that is about half as large again as is natural. By
letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually
eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems. One cause of this is
shorter capping times by one day, and shorter post-capping times by
one day. This means less Varroa get into the cells, and less Varroa
reproduce in the cells. (14)

Who should be surprised that the major media reports forget to tell us
that the dying bees are actually hyper-bred varieties that we coax
into a larger than normal body size? It sounds just like the beef
industry. And, have we here a solution to the vanishing bee problem?
Is it one that the CCD Working Group, or indeed, the scientific world
at large, will support? Will media coverage affect government action
in dealing with this issue?

These are important questions to ask. It is not an uncommonly held
opinion that, although this new pattern of bee colony collapse seems
to have struck from out of the blue (which suggests a triggering
agent), it is likely that some biological limit in the bees has been
crossed. There is no shortage of evidence that we have been fast
approaching this limit for some time.

“We’ve been pushing them too hard,” Dr. Peter Kevan, an associate
professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelph in
Ontario, told the CBC. “And we’re starving them out by feeding them
artificially and moving them great distances.” Given the stress
commercial bees are under, Kevan suggests CCD might be caused by
parasitic mites, or long cold winters, or long wet springs, or
pesticides, or genetically modified crops. Maybe it’s all of the
above. (24)

This conclusion is not surprising, considering how the practice of
beekeeping has been made ultra-efficient in a competitive world run by
free market forces. Unlike many crops, honey is not given subsidy
protection in the United States despite the huge importance of the bee
industry to food production. The FDA has hardly moved at all to
protect American producers from “honey pretenders” – products
containing little or no honey that are imported and sold with
misleading packaging. Rare is the beekeeper that does not need
pesticide treatments and other techniques falling under the rubric of
‘factory farming.’ (15)

You might be justifiably stunned to know how little money is being
thrown at this problem. A January 29, 2007 Penn State press release
(just before CCD hit the big networks) stated: “The beekeeping
industry has been quick to respond to the crisis. The National Honey
Board has pledged $13,000 of emergency funding to the CCD working
group. Other organizations, such as the Florida State Beekeepers
Association, are working with their membership to commit additional
funds.” A quick look at will tell you that that $13,000
buys about 4 seconds of war at the going rate. Remember, these same
scientists had presented the world with a similar threat level two
years ago. Apparently they were ignored. (16)

Anyway, breathe easy; Congress has begun talking up the concept of
getting involved. On April 26, the Senate Agriculture Committee,
perhaps not trusting CNN, heard from representatives of the beekeeping
industry just how important a matter this is. Committee Chairman,
Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the bee decline should be part of the
current discussion of a new farm bill. “The U.S. honey industry is
facing one of the most serious threats ever from colony collapse
disorder,” he stated. “The bee losses associated with this disorder
are staggering and portend equally grave consequences for the
producers of crops that rely on honeybees for pollination. These crops
include many specialty crops and alfalfa, so viable honey bee colonies
are critically important across our entire food and agriculture
sector.” (17)

Alfalfa? We should be worried because CCD threatens alfalfa and other
specialty crops? He means apples and stuff we can assume, because Mark
Brady, president of the American Honey Producers Association, had
informed the committee that “honey bees pollinate more than 90 food,
fiber and seed crops. In particular, the fruits, vegetables and nuts
that are cornerstones of a balanced and healthy diet are especially
dependent on continued access to honey bee pollination.” Science is
always a hard sell. (17)

Even before that committee meeting, on April 16, Senator Clinton wrote
a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Mike
Johanns, asking “that you provide us (a bipartisan group of senators)
with an expedited report on the immediate steps that the Department is
and will be taking to determine the causes of CCD, and to develop
appropriate countermeasures for this serious disorder. In particular,
we ask for a specific explanation of how the Department plans to
utilize its existing resources and capabilities, including its four
Agricultural Research Service honeybee research labs, and to work with
other public and private sector enterprises in combating CCD.” These
are fine questions indeed. (28)

Hype or understatement?

Bees are finely tuned machines, much more robot-like than your average
species. They operate pretty much like the Borg of Star Trek fame. A
honey bee cannot exist as an individual, and this is why some
biologists speak of them as super-organisms. They are sensitive
barometers of environmental pollution, quite useful for monitoring
pesticide, radionuclide, and heavy metal contamination. They respond
to a vide variety of pollutants by dying or markedly changing their
behavior. Honeybees’ stores of pollen and honey are ideal for
measuring contamination levels. Some pesticides are exceptionally
harmful to honey bees, killing individuals before they can return to
the hive. (18)

Not surprisingly, the use of one or more new pesticides was, and
likely remains, on the short list of likely causes of CCD. But more
than pesticides could potentially be harming bees. Some scientists
suspect global warming. Temperature plays an integral part in
determining mass behavior of bees. To mention just one temperature
response, each bee acts as a drone thermostat, helping cool or warm
the hive whenever it isn’t engaged in some other routine.

As you might expect, rising temperatures in springtime cause bees to
become active. Erratic weather patterns caused by global warming could
play havoc with bees’ sensitive cycles. A lot of northeastern U.S.
beekeepers say a late cold snap is what did the damage to them this
year. Bill Draper, a Michigan beekeeper, lost more than half of his
240 hives this spring, but it wasn’t his worst year for bee losses,
and he doesn’t think CCD caused it. He thinks CCD might stem from a
mix of factors from climate change to breeding practices that put more
emphasis on some qualities, like resistance to mites, at the expense
of other qualities, like hardiness. (32)

According to Kenneth Tignor, the state apiarist of Virginia, another
possibility with CCD is that the missing bees left their hives to look
for new quarters because the old hives became undesirable, perhaps
from contamination of the honey. This phenomenon, known as absconding,
normally occurs only in the spring or summer, when there is an
adequate food supply. But if they abscond in the autumn or winter, as
they did last fall in the U.S., Tignor says the bees are unlikely to
survive. (19)

A bee colony is a fine-tuned system, and a lot could conceivably go
wrong. This is presumably why some scientists suspect cell phone
radiation is the culprit behind CCD. This theory holds that radiation
from mobile phones interferes with bee navigation systems, preventing
them from finding their way home. German research has shown that bees
behave differently near power lines. Now, a preliminary study has
found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are
placed nearby. The head researcher said the result might provide a
“hint” of a possible cause. Maybe they should check to see if
beekeepers suddenly started using BlackBerrys in 2004.

It should be noted that the CCD Working Group at Penn State believes
cell phones are very unlikely to be causing the problem. Nor are they
interested in the possibility that GMO crops are responsible. Although
GMO crops can contain genes to produce pesticides, some of which may
harm bees, the distribution of CCD cases does not appear to correlate
with GMO crop plantings. (20)

Honey bees are not native to North America or Europe. They are thought
to come from Southeast Asia, although some recent research based on
genomic studies indicates that their origin is actually in Africa.
(21) Regardless, they represent only seven of the approximately 20,000
known species of bees. Apis mellifera, the most commonly domesticated
species of honey bee, was only the third insect to have its genome
mapped. These useful, and very prevalent, bees are commonly referred
to as either Western honey bees or European honey bees. Although it is
a non-native species, the honey bee has fit in well in America. It is
the designated state insect of fifteen states, which surely reflects
its usefulness.

Apis mellifera comes in a wide variety of sub-species adapted to
different climates and geographies. Behavior, color and anatomy can be
quite different from one sub-species to another, the infamous killer
bees being a case in point. The Native Americans called the honey bee
“the white man’s fly.” It was introduced to North America by European
settlers in the early 1600s, and soon escaped into the wild, spreading
as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Thus, there are significant
numbers of feral hives in North America, though most of the honey bees
you will see are working bees.

But you may not have even seen one for a while. These days, many
gardeners are discovering that they must hand pollinate garden
vegetables, thanks to widespread pollinator decline. It is more than
fair to say that the extreme importance of honey bees as pollinators
today stems from the fact that native pollinators are in decline
almost everywhere.

The pollination of the American almond crop, which occurs in February
and March, is the largest managed pollination event in the world,
requiring more than one third of all the managed honey bees in the
United States. Massive numbers of hives are transported for this and
other key pollinations, including apples and blueberries. Honey bees
are not particularly efficient pollinators of blueberries, but they
are used anyway. We depend on managed honey bees because we are
addicted to a monoculture-based managed agricultural sector.

There has been criticism that media coverage of the CCD story, perhaps
in its quest to achieve the requisite ‘balance,’ has been too rosy.
Some stories note that other pollinators are more significant than
honey bees for many crops. But these stories seldom go on to tell how
other pollinators are facing problems too. The BBC recently reported
on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, which is currently enlisting the
public’s help to catalogue bumblebee populations. The story noted that
several of the U.K.‘s 25 species are endangered, and three have gone
extinct in recent years. (22)
Another recent story in The Register stated that several U.K.
bumblebee species are “heading inexorably for extinction.” According
to scientists, the process is caused by “pesticides and agricultural
intensification” which could have a “devastating knock-on effect on
agriculture.” The disappearance of wildflower species has also been
implicated in the British bumblebee decline. (23)(20)

Bumblebees are, however, doing well in one region, Neath Port Talbot,
which was declared the bumblebee capital of Wales in 2004 after
experts found 15 different species thriving there. This is almost
certainly because the local council allows roadside verges to become
overgrown with “weeds” and wildflowers. (20)

Surprise — it’s an ecosystem thing. As with honeybees and CCD, the
root of the bumblebee problem lies in our modern rationalist drive
toward endlessly ordering the world around us. The long-term solution
is a return to a more natural ecological order. This interpretation
needs to be conveyed when mainstream media tell the CCD story.

Of course, with all the parasites, pathogens, pesticides and transit
to stress out our hardworking honey bees, they are in peril. Even if
some silver bullet saves us from CCD, it is more than obvious that we
need to pay more respect to bees, and to nature. This truth may be
generalized to most facets of our agricultural existence; the bees are
just a warning. Wherever you look, pests are getting stronger as the
life forms we depend on get weaker. Adding more chemicals isn’t going
to help for much longer.

Beekeepers are a busy and underpaid lot, and we should pay more heed
to their services. Even now, with the vanishing bee story headlining
on major networks, government players appear to have their eyes
elsewhere. “There used to be a lot more regulation than there is
today,” says Arizona beekeeper Victor Kaur. “People import bees and
bring new diseases into the country. One might be colony collapse
disorder.” (30)

“The bees are dying, and I think people are to blame,” is how Kaur
puts it simply. “Bee keeping is much more labor intensive now than it
was 15 years ago. It’s a dying profession,” he eulogizes. “The average
age of a beekeeper is 62, and there are only a couple of thousand of
us left. There are only about 2.5 million hives left. …It’s too much
work.” (30)

If CCD proves to be more than a one-time seasonal fluke, the job of
beekeeping just got a lot harder. Pollination can’t be outsourced,
although it isn’t too difficult to imagine fields full of exploited
underclass laborers pollinating crops by Q-tip. Let’s hope we never
have to go there.

Perhaps a sensible reaction to the information summarized in this
short article would be to write a letter to your government leaders.
Insist that they immediately allocate significant funding to combat
CCD using a variety of approaches. This must include ecological
approaches such as wildflower renewal. Furthermore, insist that our
few remaining beekeepers be given the support they deserve and
desperately need at this important juncture. Humanity cannot afford to
ignore this battle. It’s not science; it’s common sense.


FAQ’s Colony Collapse Disorder (PDF), Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research
and Extension Consortium, CCD Working Group
See also:
Alarm sounded over US honey bee die-off
Wikinews, February 10, 2007
Vanishing bees threaten US crops
By Matt Wells, March 11, 2007
Mystery Ailment Strikes Honeybees
By Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press, February 11, 2007
Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross, April 15, 2007
Thread on dubious Einstein quote.
Vanishing honeybees mystify scientists
Reuters, April 22, 2007
Enemies of Bees
by Michael Bush
Scientists Identify Pathogens That May Be Causing Global Honey-Bee
Source: Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, April 26, 2007
Bees Wiped Out by Cascade of Deadly Events
By Robert Roy Britt, May 17, 2005
Bee Mites Suppress Bee Immunity, Open Door For Viruses And Bacteria
Source: Penn State, May 18, 2005
Labchuk’s email is reproduced in comments section; authorship was
confirmed by this writer
Bush Bees Website
Regional Farm Bill field hearing: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, July 21,
Honey bee die-off alarms beekeepers, crop growers and researchers
Penn State press release Jan 29, 2007
Colony collapse disorder is reducing U.S. bee population
By Zena McFadden, Medill News Service, April 26, 2007
Honey Bees and Bee Products as Monitors of the Environmental
Contamination (PDF)
Porrini et al., University of Bologna,
In Apiacta, the journal of the International Federation of Beekeepers’
( )
Taiwan Is Latest Country Stung by Vanishing Honey Bees
By Jessica Berman, VOA News, April 27, 2007
Secret of bumblebee capital
BBC, 25 May, 2004
Research Upsetting Some Notions About Honey Bees
Source: Texas A&M University – Agricultural Communications, December
29, 2006
Bid to halt bumblebee decline
BBC, April 16, 2007
UK’s bumblebees face extinction
By Lester Haines
In Depth Insects: The plight of the honeybee
CBC News Online, Updated April 12, 2007
Why are Niagara’s bees dying?
By Dana Flavelle, Toronto Star, April 17, 2007
Bee mite found on Oahu
Apr 12, 2007 by Katherine Fisher, Hawaii Health
Experts may have found what’s bugging the bees
By Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II, LA Times, April 26, 2007
Senator Clinton Calls on USDA to Respond
All American Patriots, April 20, 2007
Taiwan mislays millions of honeybees
By Lester Haines, The Register, April 26, 2007
Collapsing colonies
By Joanne C. Twaddell, The Daily Courier, April 23, 2007
A Comparison of Russian and Italian Honey Bees (PDF)
By David R. Tarpy, NC State University, and Jeffrey Lee, Beekeeper,
Mebane NC
Tiers bees avoid deadly disease
By Salle E. Richards, Elmira Star-Gazette, April 3, 2007

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