Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bee Atrophy

I thought of Yeats' poem 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' and the description of his garden with the 'bee loud glade' while reading an article about the global honey bee collapse.

The story of "colony collapse disorder" is already well-known around the world and its varied causes include parasites, a virus, or use of pesticides that play havoc with the nervous system of young bees.

"The bee crisis has been treated as a niche concern until now, but as the UN's index of food prices hits an all time high in real terms and grain shortages trigger revolutions in the Middle East, it is becoming urgent to know whether the plight of the honey bee risks further exhausting our already thin margin of food global security."

A reference is made to Albert Einstein who said that "if the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live."

Such "apocalyptic scenarios" are overblown however since the staples of corn, wheat, and rice are all pollinated by wind.

However, bee pollination is essential for nuts, melons, and berries."This is the fastest growing and most valuable part of the global farm economy. Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of pollination comes from domesticated honey bees."

"Pollinated crop output has quadrupled since 1961, yet bee colonies have halved. The bee-per-hectare count has fallen nearly 90 per cent."

The British Beekeepers' Association has called for an "urgent review" of pesticides while scientists are working hard to isolate causes.

"Apian (bee) atrophy is a more immediate threat than global warming, and can be solved, yet has barely risen onto the policy radar screen."