What is Really Happening to the Bees?
My one demented reader will know of my curiosity about the lack of bees, and my sometimes frankly loony speculation about a mechanism to explain colony collapse disorder. Something like a third of agricultural production globally is dependent upon the pollination brought about by apis mellifera, and the cyclical, grinding loss of colonies, both in terms of numbers and capacities, should therefore be big news.
This month's Scientific American has a lovely article on the topic. On the basis of research by, inter alia, Diana Cox-Foster and Denis van Engelsdorp, it posits a Murder on the Orient Express combination of explanations for the death of bees.
Drs Cox-Foster and Engelsdorp have accused as the ultimate assailant a particular virus, known as the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, first identified in Jerusalem as a pathogen by Ilan Sela of Hebrew University. The virus in itself is not sufficient to explain the deaths. Yet, when placed in the context of pesticide combinations, a suburbanisation that prizes the neatness and uniformity that bees hate, and the existence of various mites and parasites, it can become a devastating killer.
I like Bees. They are sensible, often clever little things that work hard and which only sting when provoked, and then self-destructively. I've never felt anything but pleasure and admiration on seeing one, loopy as that reads. We anthropomorphise all the things we like, of course, but research that adds to our understanding of them, and which helps deal with a potentially vicious threat to world food supplies, can't be a bad thing even if you aren't a nutter.
Scientific American's April edition, as I recall, often contains an 'April Fool' story. See if you can spot it. While you are looking, the fascinating study of how post-traumatic stress disorder is being bureaucratically diagnosed (at the same time as some are suggesting that its incidence is being politically repressed) and the story about the bees are worth the cover price alone.
Save the bee!