One of the most familiar insects in the world is the Honeybee. This member of the insect order Hymenoptera plays a key role in the human and natural world. More has been written about honeybees than any other species of insect. The human fascination with this insect began thousands of years ago when people discovered what wonderfully tasty stuff honey is! Image Credit: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center
BEE Afraid, Be Very Afraid!
Here is an item that is really troubling, in that, we here on Earth do not know what may get to our human population first - famine (lack of food) or disease (animal flu crossover).
The bee populations throughout the world are in decline. This phenomenon was first observed last autumn, but is being observed in many places throughout the world.
The many theories as to why this is happening include climate change/global warming, chemical pollution, and parasite mites - but the chief cause may end up being our increased radio frequency technology use and density.
Excerpts from the Independent News and Media Limited -
Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees
By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross - Published: 15 April 2007
It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.
They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.
The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
The central feature of the bee hive is the honeycomb. This marvel of insect engineering consists of flat vertical panels of six-sided cells made of beeswax. Beeswax is produced from glands on the underside of the abdomens of worker bees when they are between 12 and 15 days old. House bees take the beeswax and form it with their mouths into the honeycomb. The cells within the comb will be used to raise young and to store honey and pollen. Image Credit: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center
The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.
CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.
The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".
German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.
Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.
Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."
Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.
Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb", a form of RSI from constant texting.
Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.
Additional resource information HERE.
UPDATED - April 28, 2007:
It turns out that bee experts meeting this week in Washington D.C. have come up with an alternative and more credible answer to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times -
Experts may have found what's bugging the bees
A fungus that hit hives in Europe and Asia may be partly to blame for wiping out colonies across the U.S.
By Jia-Rui Chong and Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writers - April 26, 2007
A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday.
Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.
But the results are "highly preliminary" and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. "We don't want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved."
Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.
Cox-Foster was one of the organizers of a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday where about 60 bee researchers gathered to discuss Colony Collapse Disorder.
"We still haven't ruled out other factors, such as pesticides or inadequate food resources following a drought," she said. "There are lots of stresses that these bees are experiencing," and it may be a combination of factors that is responsible.
Historically, bee losses are not unusual. Weather, pesticide exposures and infestations by pests, such as the Varroa mite, have wiped out significant numbers of colonies in the past, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s.
But the current loss appears unprecedented. Beekeepers in 28 states, Canada and Britain have reported large losses.
Dr. Charles Wick of the center had used a new system of genetic analysis to identify pathogens in ground-up bee samples from California. He found several viruses, including members of a recently identified genus called iflaviruses.
It is not known whether these small, RNA-containing viruses, which infect the Varroa mite, are pathogenic to bees.
Skowronski forwarded the samples to DeRisi, who also found evidence of the viruses, along with genetic material from N. ceranae.
"There was a lot of stuff from Nosema, about 25% of the total," Skowronski said. "That meant there was more than there was bee RNA. That leads me to believe that the bee died from that particular pathogen."
If N. ceranae does play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder, there may be some hope for beekeepers.
A closely related parasite called Nosema apis, which also affects bees, can be controlled by the antibiotic fumagillin, and there is some evidence that it will work on N. ceranae as well.