Monday, March 5, 2007

Why millions of missing bees are a national crisis

In the "War of the Worlds" the attacking force of a superior civilization was brought to its knees and defeated by organisms so small they (in O Wells construct) did not consider their effects; microbes.

Bees are rather larger than microbes. But also immensely effective in what they do. We humans have in the US built an enormous agricultural industry utilizing literally, the fruits of their labor. What are we going to do when they disappear?

But above all, why are they disappearing? Speculation abounds. Climate change, disease, parasites? We don't know, because we have not bothered to collect much information about this most useful insect. After all, they were nearly omnipresent, right? Why should that change?

Looks to me like we have finally found the weakest point in our web of interrelations to the natural world. Can we build or afford to use an artificial pollinator? I doubt it. Can we genetically modify bees to survive in the face of all the changes we make to their environment? Chemical changes, physical changes.

Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" did not come as rapidly as she thought. But songbirds are fewer now. And who notices? But when the bees disappear we will notice. And think with true regret on the days of wine and honey in our land.

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