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Bug Science

Vanishing Honeybees Will Affect Future Crops 322

Posted by kdawson
from the bee-gone dept.
daninbusiness writes "Across the US, beekeepers are finding that their bees are disappearing — not returning while searching for nectar and pollen. This could have a major impact on the food industry in the United States, where as much as $14 billion worth of agriculture business depends on bees for crop pollination. Reasons for this problem, dubbed 'colony collapse disorder,' are still unknown. Theories include viruses, some type of fungus, poor bee nutrition, and pesticides."
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Vanishing Honeybees Will Affect Future Crops

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  • by spun (1352)
    Where's my check?

    Haha, just kidding. I believe in anthropogenic global warming, but I can't resist an easy shot like that.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Here in France, Genetically Engineered Organisms are blamed for that.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Dr Caleb (121505)
        France blames global warming on GEOs? Wow! Personally, I blame Chevrolet for the GEO.
      • GMO! (Score:4, Informative)

        by cluckshot (658931) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @08:50PM (#18175694)

        It is the GMO's. Sorry for those who think that it isn't so. There is a 1:1 correspondence. The gene that makes cotton and other crops resistant to pests also infects their pollen and nectar. The result is that after a bee has taken its fill of nectar, it succumbs to the poison in the nectar. As such a crop bees that goes for the pollen and nectar of such a GMO crop is doomed. The French are RIGHT!

        This is another in the long line of accomplishments of the GMO people. Unintended consequences of their actions bring real problems. The GMO people always deny these problems. For example, they told farmers that weeds were the problem with their crops and the roundup resistance gene was used to end weeds all together. It worked too! But with the weeds gone there was nothing to prevent soil erosion in the winter. So the farmers in my area now have to plant winter wheat to protect their soil and then kill it when the drill in their other crops in the spring. In the mean time the cost of cotton dropped by nearly 2/3 of the total price resulting in farmers being hardly able to make any money. Their machinery and loans and GMO payments became their slave masters. This stuff of playing with mother nature isn't exactly working out like the economics professors said it would.

        • Re:GMO! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @10:07PM (#18176380)
          I do think the GMO theory deserves a very serious look. GMO have been known to cause problems for butterflys: http://www.netlink.de/gen/Zeitung/2000/000919.html [netlink.de] .

          GMO organisms are artificial. These are DNA sequences and protiens that have been created in a way they never would have been in nature. Perhaps nature has a way of coding DNA in certain manners, and perhaps there are complex interdependancies between genes we dont know about, where if one gene is altered, it may have implications throughout the organism. Scientists claim to know what genes do, but they only know the tip of the iceberg, a gene may have numerous additional functions that they have no idea about.

          It could be that GMOs are fundamentally different in someway from natural food that makes them difficult to digest. Perhaps it causes a weakening of bee colonies.

          bees, humans, and so on have evolved for millions of years eating natural foods with DNA produces through natural processes. The further we get from those natural nutrition sources that are body is equipped to handle, the less efficiently your body may be able to use those foods. GMO food is unnatural food that has an unacceptably high risk. Usually i say it should be the choice of the consumer. This is so with food colours and additives. However, GMOs by their nature can contaminate non GMO crops where they are not wanted, endangering consumer choice and our right to whole, natural, and healthy foods. I do think GMOs should be banned for this reason, and the fact that non-GMO foods are natural and what we have been eating for millions of years.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            bees, humans, and so on have evolved for millions of years eating natural foods with DNA produces through natural processes. The further we get from those natural nutrition sources that are body is equipped to handle, the less efficiently your body may be able to use those foods.

            You don't even need to artificially modify the genome, to encounter ill effects from eating non-natural "foods."

            HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) could not be part of a genuinely natural diet, because it relies on an abundance o

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:25PM (#18170388) Journal
      I know you're joking, but a slightly warmer climate definitely can impact susceptibility to fungal infections, etc.

      I kept bees for quite a few years (in NJ) but stopped because of a mite that destroyed my colonies. My last extraction (in 2001) produced less than six pounds from each super, I had been getting 22-25 pounds in the early 90s. The Beekeepers Quarterly had an article at the time suggesting that the red mite was limited in it's northern expansion due to temperature, but that a succession of a few warm winters allowed it to reach nearly all the continental US -- only a harsh winter will kick it back down south.

      None of this, by the way, provides any insight into why a slashdotter would keep bees, which is a mystery better left unexplored.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bladesjester (774793)
        None of this, by the way, provides any insight into why a slashdotter would keep bees, which is a mystery better left unexplored.

        Because honey in the comb is a wonderful thing? There were beehives on my family's farm when I was a kid.
      • by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:36PM (#18170598) Journal
        The Beekeepers Quarterly had an article at the time suggesting that the red mite was limited in it's northern expansion due to temperature, but that a succession of a few warm winters allowed it to reach nearly all the continental US -- only a harsh winter will kick it back down south.

        I read an article about a similar scenario that is happening in Colorado. Some species of beatle is eating the redwoods. In the past it wasn't as big of a deal because the frost would come through every winter and kill the bastards off. These days it doesn't get cold enough to kill them so they are just laying waste to huge swaths of the forest. =(

        • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:15PM (#18171340)
          No kidding colorado and New Mexico are being ravaged by bark beetles. Outside my window the entire canyon is 80% dead trees. I'm not exagerating. that's the official figure. It's expected many ski areas in colorado will be baren within the decade. he last few winter cycles have not been cold enough. On the flip side, the birds look chubbier. But they will leave when the trees are all gone. And after all the trees fall over in ten years the rocky baren mountain sides will look handsome. Right now they look uggly with all the black limbess sticks.
          • The mountains in south america are covered with trees.

            I'm sure the plants will come (tho at a slower pace than the insects).

            Humans have tried to do this artificially with terrible results so we are hesitant to introduce new species these days so it will probably have to happen naturally. But it will.

            I doubt the spruce trees can adapt quickly enough.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gurudyne (126096)
          I read an article about a similar scenario that is happening in Colorado. Some species of beatle is eating the redwoods.

          Redwoods? In Colorado? Redwoods in California/Oregon I would believe. Reddish somethings in Colorado I would believe, but not redwoods.

        • by ArcherB (796902) * on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:33PM (#18171624) Journal
          These days it doesn't get cold enough to kill them so they are just laying waste to huge swaths of the forest. =(

          I know it is offtopic, but the same thing was happening in East Texas. The pine beetle was devastating the forests there. However, a control method was found that stopped the problem cold. Whenever you found a tree that was infected, you cut the tree down. Unfortunately, the Clinton administration banned cutting down tree on national forests to prevent logging. While his intentions were well meaning, it ended up destroying forests. Like in the west where forest fires had no breaks to stop them, the pine beetle wiped out many national forests in East Texas. It was almost humorous to be driving along and see an empty field surrounded by wooded areas. I asked my uncle what happened and he told that the clear area was a national land while the area around it was privately owned. The private owners would spot the infected trees and cut them down, but since that was illegal in the national forest, the whole plot was wiped out.

      • Honey for Mead hombrewing? That's why I'd do it.

        That, or a new packet transport method...
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        It would be interesting to see if the two harsh winters we've had on the east coast since 2001 have changed anything.
      • by waterbear (190559) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:20PM (#18171426)
        Well, as another /.er who used to keep bees, I could point to some possible explanations that are simpler too:

        Hive-based diseases such as mites and fungi tend to kill bees in and around the hive.

        One common cause of bees failing to return home after foraging is poisoning by recently-applied pesticides. It's not pesticide use in general that's responsible, it happens more when a farmer applies pesticide close to when a crop is in bloom and attracting the bees.
        For just this reason, some agricultural pesticides come with instructions not to apply them within a window of time related to crop blooming, but like many instructions, users do not always read and follow them. If there is a new pesticide around, or a new fashion for how to apply an existing one, this could have big consequences for bee mortality.

        Then again, if the bees are not dying, but just not returning, this could be behavior based on the strain of bees. It could follow a change in strain chosen by large-scale bee-breeders and beekeepers. Colonies of some strains are bad at staying put in their hive, they tend to abscond, ie relocate, specially when short of stores and brood. Absconding is a bit different than swarming, where a nucleus of bees is left behind to carry on the old colony. Africanized bees, for example, are known as bad absconders as well as swarmers.

        -wb-
    • by trongey (21550)

      ...I believe in anthropogenic global warming...

      So, what, it's a religion now?
      Are you a born-again believer, or did you grow up in a anthropogenic global warming household?
      • by spun (1352)
        I grew up in a Newtonian gravity household. Einstein is the devil. Space-time is myth! Anyone can plainly see that space and time are two different things.

        Anthropogenic global warming, on the other hand, is like Buddhism. You can tack it onto anything. On Falling Apple Day, we used to bake an apple pie using a solar oven as a tribute to Saint Gore.
    • by zotz (3951)
      Well, actually, I figure this is the issue that will get Bush his Oscar a few years down the road...

      all the best,

      drew
  • Damn birds (Score:5, Funny)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:12PM (#18170146)
    Obviously it is the resurgence in bird populations that is killing the bees.

    We have to bring back DDT.

    This is simply a matter of the birds and the bees.
  • please... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:14PM (#18170188)
    Oh please. Like bees have anything to do with crop production...What are these so-called "scientists" going to try to convince us of next?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jimstapleton (999106)
      please tell me that's a joke.

      As the article stated, bees are very important for polination on many species of plants. In english: The bees help the plants have sex.

      Severly reduce the bees, and you have less seeds. Less seeds means less plants. Oh, and most fruits are just elaborate seed casings, so fewer bees -> fewer seeds -> lower fruit output of such plants -> lower crop.
    • I hope that was satire. Many crops are NOT self-pollinating and it takes bees to spread the pollen. You will get some pollination from wind but bees are the best. Yields have increased 2-3X when orchards bring in bees versus just letting whatever ones are around do the job. Beekeepers actually lease hives to fruit/vegatable producers and make significant money for such (plus they get to keep the honey). The decline of bees is a BAD thing, it could really affect crops and thus the prices we pay for food.
    • Sounds like your parents never taught you about the 'birds and the bees'.
    • Re:please... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CaseyG (97275) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:37PM (#18170622) Homepage
      I hope you have learned from this that there can be no sarcasm so obvious that it will not be taken seriously.

        -c.
    • Scientists? Please.

      These are the people who don't believe in the book of Genesis, for chrissake.

      <cite: bill maher>
  • Across the US, beekeepers are finding that their bees are disappearing -- not returning while searching for nectar and pollen.

    Maybe they just don't like their family.
  • across the border into Mexico.... They heard the pollen there is sweeter and more abundant.. Plus they can get health care for free..
  • It sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by frakir (760204) <{ockhamrazor} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:16PM (#18170224)
    Albert Einstein's: "if bees were to disappear, man would only have a few years to live".
    Bees pollinate about 60% of crops in US and Europe. Note that exact same disappearing colonies fenomenon happens in Portugal and Poland.
    We are doomed.
    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:19PM (#18170276) Journal
      We could put them to work in the fields, pollinating plants. Feed them enough sugar and they'd even buzz around like bees.

      You people worry to much. No matter how much we fuck things up, we'll always find a way to fix it that doesn't hurt anyone that matters.
      • by CRCulver (715279)

        We could put them to work in the fields, pollinating plants. Feed them enough sugar and they'd even buzz around like bees.

        Or we could just feed our sons and daughters all the royal jelly we have left and get new bees. Ever read Roald Dahl's extremely disturbing short story "Royal Jelly" (collected in Kiss Kiss [amazon.com] )? And I for one welcome our new man-bee hybrid overlords.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Joe Snipe (224958)
        I don't matter you insensitive clod!
    • "fenomenon"

      The first sign of this collapse is the loss of spelling skills.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Joe Snipe (224958)
        Well yeah, everyone knows spelling bees are the phirst to go...
        wait, phirst? Uh, oh...
    • If they ever figure out what's killing all the bees, someone PLEASE do it to all the goddamn yellowjackets!

    • by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:18PM (#18171396) Homepage Journal
      Here in New England, one of the effects of the loss of honeybees has been a very visible recovery of native pollinators. At least it's visible if you have a garden and pay attention to what's happening there. In our yard, we've seen a huge increase in the number of bumblebees over the past few years. We used to see only a few per day; now in the summer you can almost always see several at a time. Of course, you don't get a whole lot of honey from a bumblebee's nest.

      Anyway, the local wildlife people have long considered the honeybee an alien invader, much like English sparrows and starlings. They were introduced to North America by humans, and have crowded out many native species.

      The natives are doing much better with the honeybees mostly gone. Now if we could find something that kills off English sparrows and starlings in large numbers. Honeybees at least provide honey, but nobody can think of anything that those two kinds of birds are good for.
  • by zstlaw (910185) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:17PM (#18170238)
    Why would they come back? Chinese and Indian honeybees do it cheaper. Rather than wait for their jobs to be outsourced, American honeybees are moving on to greener pastures.
  • Clearly the introduction of Africanised bees resulted in some sort of bee-AIDS epidemic.

    Those promiscuous pollen pilfering pests!
    • Like most of the un-funny posts to this article already. However, you managed to hit on something that it seems the article missed. Africanized (Killer) Bees have been a problem reported by bee keeps over much of the southern United States for over a decade now and the problem seems to creep farther north every year.

      The problem stems from the Killer Bees infiltrating a colony of another type of bee and wiping out the colony. Since the killer bees do exhibit the same food gathering and other critical behavio
      • by LordPhantom (763327) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:57PM (#18170970)
        It may seem silly but it is a critically important roll that the bees have to crop production.
        It's not silly at all! I, like you, believe in the great insectoid pastry from whence all food production pours forth!
      • Actually, Africanized Bees can be a benefit to the overall Bee productivity. They tend to be more productive in areas with proper climate (warm, and lots of rain). Many places have learned to breed the Africanized bees into gentler colonies that are manageable. Once the bees are bred to a manageable state, the output from the colony can be better than the original European bees. They have after all been doing it in Africa for quite a while, why not in other continents too?
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:21PM (#18170300) Homepage
    This whole "No Drone Left Behind" thing is a failure. The bees are heading out of the country for better educations, free health care and fewer 'reality' programs on the tele.
  • ever since those bees got their FiOS connections they just don't go out like they use to.

    Or maybe they got a WII or PS3 for Christmas.
    • Or maybe they got a WII or PS3 for Christmas.
      who could blame them for taking time off work, those Wiis are the bee's knees
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:22PM (#18170328)
    No, really. The bees are being captured by the government and kept in secret facilities where they are pollinating a secret genetically engineered type of plant, which causes them to become carriers of the smallpox virus and be more aggressive. The bees are then used to spread smallpox where needed, without causing an immediate biological warfare panic.

    That's why the bees are disappearing from private bee farms.
  • by antdude (79039) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:23PM (#18170350) Homepage Journal
    Try this non-registration link [nytimes.com].
  • Traveling hives (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Jamieson (890438) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:24PM (#18170372)
    I find it difficult believe that roving hives are still allowed. Sure it saves a bit of cash, but the potential effect it has on the spread of disease and parasites(that afflict bee's) should not be overlooked.

    Again, we sell of future potential for short term gain.
  • I heard this on Coast to Coast AM the other night, with a much more in depth story and interviews.
  • Yep...WoW addicts. A new expansion just came out...so they're all out there grinding.
  • One bee reads "The Fountainhead," blabs about it to her hive sisters, and in a week all of them starve to death while arguing about who's really a pirate, the false doctrine of altruism, and the best way to privatize royal jelly production.
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:29PM (#18170462)
    Beekeeper 1: Well, sure is quiet in here today.
    Beekeeper 2: Yes, a little too quiet, if you know what I mean.
    Beekeeper 1: Hmm...I'm afraid I don't.
    Beekeeper 2: You see, bees usually make a lot of noise. No noise --
                              suggests no bees!
    Beekeeper 1: Oh, I understand now. Oh look, there goes one now.
    Beekeeper 2: To the Beemobile!
    Beekeeper 1: You mean your Chevy?
    Beekeeper 2: Yes.
    • by sconeu (64226)
      Beekeeper 2: To the Beemobile!
      Beekeeper 1: You mean your Chevy?


      No, I mean to the Datsun B-210 Honey-B!
  • Not so long ago, it was killer bees moving north from Central America that were going to mix with the more docile honey bees in the US. I wonder if there's any connection ...
  • Inbreeding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zakarria (948686) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:32PM (#18170544)
    This is what you get when you breed monocultures of plants or animals. A single disease or problem that wipes out your entire supply. Trying to determine the specific cause is all well and good, but ultimately somewhat beside the point. If we don't want to have this kind of problem we need to purposefully breed for biodiversity so that one pathogen is less likely to destroy an entire industry. I sincerely hope the entire agricultural industry, and others, really comprehend what it is they should be learning from this and change their priorities a bit before the same thing hits say, the entire corn supply.
  • Humor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wilson_6500 (896824) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:33PM (#18170560)
    It's interesting to look at how many of the above responses are lame/decent attempts at humor.

    Is this because there's nothing in the article for us to all argue about, or because everyone thinks this is funny? What if herds of cattle started vanishing mysteriously out of fields, or cell colonies for research mysteriously all started to plate really poorly?

    Maybe the topic just lends itself to jokes--I had to try pretty hard to not make a cattle abduction joke up there.
    • Re:Humor? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @03:46PM (#18170776) Journal
      It's interesting to look at how many of the above responses are lame/decent attempts at humor. Is this because there's nothing in the article for us to all argue about, or because everyone thinks this is funny?

      When a superior man hears of the Tao,

      he immediately begins to embody it.

      When an average man hears of the Tao,

      he half believes it, half doubts it.

      When a foolish man hears of the Tao,

      he laughs out loud.

      If he didn't laugh,

      it wouldn't be the Tao.

    • Re:Humor? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by merreborn (853723) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:01PM (#18171084) Journal

      It's interesting to look at how many of the above responses are lame/decent attempts at humor.

      Is this because there's nothing in the article for us to all argue about, or because everyone thinks this is funny?


      This is slashdot.org, not beedot.org. There aren't many people here with knowledge of the beekeeping industry. If this was about CPU fabrication, you'd see a thread full of detailed discussion on operations per cycle and whatever else.

      Instead, it's bees, so all we can do is crack bee jokes. Lack of knowledge => lack of insightful commentary.
    • by JohnFluxx (413620)
      Everyone agrees it's worrying, and nobody has any more details. What exactly do you expect people to say in comments?
    • by moochfish (822730)
      What do cows get when they are sick?

      Hay Fever.
  • Giant Asian Hornets [telegraph.co.uk] arrived in Europe in 2004 and are voracious predators of honeybees and wasps. There were two colonies of wasps in my family's house's roof space in summer 2005. In mid August, we suddenly started seeing giant hornets entering our house in the evenings after dusk (they have excellent night vision). I captured one in a glass jar to get rid of it and put it outside and measured its body length as 5.5cm. I killed another one that started hitting on my wife for no apparent reason. It was cert
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africanized_bee [wikipedia.org]

    Those poor honey bees are in middle of war! TFA said it was illness by mites that are the main thing. Well, that's just what the Africanized bees want us to think. The Africanized bees are bringing their mites to do biowarfare against the lowly honey bee! Oh no! We are being invaded and losses in our domesticated bee population are terrible! We need to support our commerical allies the honey bees in their war aganist Africanized bees and their bio warfare mites be
  • I came across an interesting article at http://www.everythingabout.net/articles/biology/a n imals/arthropods/insects/bees/aa/vanishing_part1.s html [everythingabout.net] which discusses pesticide use and bees.

    All it takes is for a field within the range of the bee hive to use a pesticide which can harm the bees and all the bees will suffer, since workers carry it back to the hive.
  • "bees are disappearing -- not returning while searching for nectar and pollen. [...] Theories include viruses, some type of fungus, poor bee nutrition, and pesticides." What REALLY happened though, was that the bees got abducted by aliens. Complete with anal probes and everything.
  • The scientific evidence not to mention the history of man long long long before industry shows conclusively that Earth has been much warmer in the past and also much colder. It has had varying cycles since long before we got here and it will be varying long after we get hit by a car while admiring our digital watches.

    Whether or not we arrived on Earth, it was DEFINITELY going to get warmer than even now, and it was going to do it right around now, then go into another glacial. The Earth hasn't been Mayberry
  • I've seen hundreds of bees crawling around, apparently unable to fly, on several occasions here in California. I see a lot of them on sidewalks, on tennis courts, on my terrace, on concrete steps. They crawl around, buzzing pitifully. I've tried to help them, but they can't fly, or at least can't fly for more than a couple seconds at a time. They all die within a matter of hours after that. I've swept dozens of dead bees of my terrace. It's kind of sad, and disturbing. When I heard about these "hive
  • Having started beekeeping 5 years ago. I am looking forward to the next season.
    I have had to dial with mites and cold and queens killed by new beekeeper mistakes.
    This may be another challange, but like any from of agraculture there is a basic level of
    unprodictabiliry, hail, draut, disease, and the markets.

    This will be another chalange and will likely drive up the cost/value of this hobby.

    All I can say is buy local honey it is better, realy better.
    Find out about beekeeping is is a very different from computi
  • My dad is was a bee-keeper as part of his duties as a park ranger and the bee populations have been dwindling like crazy here in the Southeast USA. The Varroa [wikipedia.org] are bad, but today the main culprit seems to be Small Hive Beetles [wikipedia.org] putting stress on the hives. They are absolutely devastating the bee industry here in the south, and it looks like they are going to take over the whole country. We tried to set my dad up with an apiary at home and we got everything set up, the hive, the supers, and ordered the bees. W
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:22PM (#18171444)
    Across the US, beekeepers are finding that their bees are disappearing -- not returning while searching for nectar and pollen.

    That explains the crystal honeycomb I received in the mail last week. It was engraved, "So long and thanks for all the flowers."

  • Valinor (Score:3, Funny)

    by woozlewuzzle (532172) on Tuesday February 27, 2007 @04:46PM (#18171868)
    They are departing these shores forever. They are traveling to the Grey Havens, never to be seen in Middle Earth again.

    Oh, bees.

    nevermind.

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