The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce
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Because of their huge food production value, the enormous bee losses that began in 2006 really caused a stir. When the phenomenon was first given its name—Colony Collapse Disorder—scientists and policy experts pooled their knowledge to help tackle the problem, creating intensive reports like this one that provide a general overview of the phenomenon, assess the possible causes, and suggest how various policies and rulings should be used to address it. The United Nations Environment Program wrote its own report that also evaluates the risks to honeybees and other pollinators around the world. These web pages and websites each provide a solid overview of Colony Collapse Disorder: one from the National Resources Defense Council, the US Department of Agriculture, and organizations called MAAREC and the International Bee Research Association that also have lots of general information about bees.
A lot of attention has been given to the Varroa destructor as a cause of the decline. The tiny mite invades honeybee colonies and also spreads viruses in the hive. This UK government website provides a good overview of the Varroa mite’s impact on colonies in the UK, while this one from a university in the US gives a general overview of the mite’s impact, along with the impact of other pathogens and pests.
Similarly, a lot of researchers are focused on the potential impact of pesticides and other toxins on bees. When scientists first found a link between some pesticides and bee decline, Science AAAS wrote a good story explaining it. There’s plenty of debate in the media about the impact of pesticides—and whether they have an impact at all. An article from the New Scientist, one from Forbes, and another from Wired hint at how fraught this issue has become.
But, just in case you were starting to feel that all hope is lost, there are several sources that explain how to help bees—whether it’s by keeping a beehive in an urban area (something that is fast turning into a popular hobby for many city-dwellers), or planting the kinds of plants in your garden that attract wild bees and help to build habitat for them.
This TED Talk by Dino Martins looks at the powerful connections between humans and honeybees, and another by Noah Wilson-Rich explores the exciting possibilities that urban beekeeping brings.
Bees have been rapidly and mysteriously disappearing from rural areas, with grave implications for agriculture. But bees seem to flourish in urban environments -- and cities need their help, too. Noah Wilson-Rich suggests that urban beekeeping might play a role in revitalizing both a city and a species.
Both honeybees and humans originated in East Africa, and the connection between us has survived the ages. Some of your favorite delicacies -- coffee, chocolate, mangoes -- have the honeybee to thank for their hard work of pollination. Dino Martins encourages us to remember how much we owe to these magnificent insect.
Honey bees are more important than you may realize. A recent Houzz ideabook discussed the benefits of native bees, of which there are around 4,000 species in North America alone. (There are more than 20,000 bee species worldwide.) Honey bees are also remarkable, in large part due to the number of individuals in each colony — as many as 80,000 bees per hive. Honey bees make especially good and efficient pollinators; tens of thousands of bees visit hundreds of thousands of flowers each day, transferring pollen from flower to flower and facilitating the production of local fruits and vegetables — these bees help provide nearly one-third of all the food we eat. See how you can build and style your own colony here.
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