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Bees, and the continuing collapse

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

60 Minutes reprised their 6-month-old story on the bee collapse, something we’ve been following for longer than that. It spotlights David Hackenburg, a beekeeper for thirty years.

The scariest parts for me were two surprises:

Normally, if there weren’t soldier bees to protect a hive’s honey, all the honey would be poached by bees from other hives in short order. But, this beekeeper said, “The hives are like a ghost town. The honey’s there. The other bees won’t touch it.” He showed the honey, just sitting there.

Remember, honey is what bees make, to feed the larval bees. What’s in that honey the other bees won’t touch?

Quite possibly, a fairly recently popular insecticide, neonicotinoids, which is an artificial form of nicotine, that acts as a neurotoxin to insects, but ostensibly doesn’t harm humans. Or some GM pollen. Or some other insecticide reaching critical mass.

Is that what’s in the honey? Something is making the collapsed colonies’ honey not just toxic, but even disgusting to the other bees.

The second surprise was that Hackenburg had originally lost two thirds of his hives. In the followup, 6 months later, the poor man has lost half of his remaining hives.

This is deeply troubling. What other insects are also being affected? Broad-spectrum insecticides are like broad-spectrum antibiotics, killing off entire populations of beneficial biota as “collateral damage” in the hunt for a few terrorists.

We burn the village to save it. We wipe out 10,000 innocent for every one we wanted to see die. We cut off our hands to trim our fingernails.