Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Bee-g Issue ( ha.ha. )

by Anna, This post originally appeared on Science Avengers.

On a recent plane ride I was faced with a choice that would define my life for the next 90-120 minutes – What movie to watch? The inflight entertainment system boasted a plenty of options, from the Muppets to Piranha. Not being one for the puppets or gruesome death by rabid-killer prehistoric-monster- fish, I ended up with the Bee Movie. I remembered the movie from a while ago, and decided to give it a shot. If the Bee Movie has yet to grace your pupillary sphincter ( a word that I learned today, courtesy of “ An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green, referring to the muscle in the iris that works to constrict the pupil) here’s a quick synopsis. If your pupillary sphincter has in fact witnessed the Bee Movie, please free skip down and to spare it the following quick synopsis.

Basically, there’s a bee named Barry who lives in a hive, and who has just graduated from university. He is disappointed in the only career option available to him : making honey. One day, being the adventurous bee that he is, he decides to join the pollen jocks ( seriously ) to fly into the outside world. He then realizes that humans are taking the bees honey in order to eat it themselves! Horrified by the conditions of a bee farm , ( an in classic movie style) he takes humanity to court – and wins. All the honey is returned to the bees. Having more honey than they could ever, their purpose in life is now unnecessary. Now spending their days sleeping, sun tanning and rolling over, o-bee-sity levels are high. Anyways, with no more bees going out, the following year, nothing flowers, and the previously lush central park is instead a distasteful brownish.

So. WHAT was the point of me posting about my inflight entertainment? The truth is, that here on not-cartoon-earth there is a phenomena taking place in which bee populations are mysteriously dying out, and it is infact a serious problem. According to   Kevin Hackett, the national program leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s bee and pollination program, “ This is the biggest general threat to our food supply.” Scientists have been working on the mystery for years, and the phenomenon has been referred to as “ colony collapse disorder – or CCD.
Recently however, studies have suggested that a major culprit, along with habitat loss, disease, and other factors, is a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These pesticides clat over 145 million acres of crops in the US alone. Research recently published in the journal “ Science “ shows that these pesticides are absorbed into plants vascular systems, negitavley affecting the nectar and pollen that bees  encounter. They are nerve poisons which confuse and disorient insects, and appear to impair the homing ability of bees. This would account for how many bees leave hives and just never return.

Another source that may be to blame in the decline in bees are GMO ( Genetically Modified Crops ) , by weakening their immune systems and making them more susceptible to disease.

While we may be responsible for their disappearance, we are also making efforts to preserve this important  pollinator. In California, farm bred bees are shipped in and fed high concentrate fructose syrup, while their queens are artificially inseminated. This has lead to a decline in the biodiversity in bees. Additionally, the bees are dusted with chemicals meant to ward off disease and deadly pests.

In any case, we should be worried. The disappearance of bees has been “ likened to canaries in a coal mine”. Their decline being a warning to us all. Food supply’s and ecosystem and ultimately humanity may be hit with the consequences. Major changes need to be made – and in fact, they are already in motion in some countries For example, France and Germany have banned the pesticide suspected to be responsible for the deaths of hives.

Environmentalist/Author Bill McKibben said :
“Past a certain point, we can’t make nature conform to our industrial model. The collapse of beehives is a warning – and the cleverness of a few beekeepers in figuring out how to work with bees not as masters but as partners offers a clear-eyed kind of hope for many of our ecological dilemmas.”

I hope that you pupillary sphincter owners learned something in reading this. Feel free to post any comments cool-weird words! ( including, but not limited to body parts – I find it strange to think that I don’t even know the names of so much that makes up… well, me and you :) )

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