April 24, 2007

More ominous than global warming.

The disappearance of the bees.

48 comments:

El Presidente said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jake said...

Our use of toilet paper is causing bees to disapear.

Doyle said...

Less ominous than global warming.

MadisonMan said...

Certainly more immediate than global warming.

I find these scientific detective stories riveting. The food supply implications of this story make it even more compelling to read.

Roger said...

I blame Bush

AJ Lynch said...

Doyle said:

"less ominous than global warming"

I suspect Doyle might change his tune should his lib handlers decide the bees thing is more ominous.

And I heard Einstein estimated it would only take 4 years for famine to occur if bees disappeared. If his estimate is accurate, I would choose global warming as my eco-disaster of the month.

Wade Garrett said...

Albert Einstein said that, if the honey bee was ever to become extinct, humanity would face an international famine within four years. This is not an issue to take lightly, Roger.

Wade Garrett said...

Ah, I see that AJ made the same point as me. This is a serious issue. What do people think, if they keep building suburbs and driving everywhere and using cellphones all the time, that it would have NO impact on the birds and the bees who make our lives possible?

Der Hahn said...

This is so much bullpucky...

Listening to the news, it seems like it’s getting hard to keep bees alive these days. Now there’s a new name for it: colony collapse disorder (CCD). Every three to five years it seems we have large die-offs of bee hives across fairly large regions, at least since the parasitic tracheal mites and Varroa mites entered the U.S. in the mid 1980's.

It's not new and has nothing to do with cell phones or global warming.

More info here. Similar events have been reported in the US since the early 1900's.

Roger said...

Wade--I really do appreciate your passion for issues, which, I am presuming is reinforced by the passion of youth. That's by and large a good thing. Please allow me the cynicism of older age; in my 65 plus years on mother gaiaI have been through one hell of a lot more "crises," than you have and have learned to suspend judgment until a few more facts are known.

One point: even if honey bees disappeared tomorrow, the human race is in no danger of starving to death; we might have to forgo some very nice things to eat; but there are sufficient edible plants that do not require pollination by bees.

So--is there a crisis?

Oh--and next time remind me to use sarcasm tags

Monkeyboy said...

But what if Einstein never said it?

More information, and a report on "Fall Dwindle Disease" here.

Wade Garrett said...

Sure, but its easy to say that the human race can get by without eating fruits, vegetables and nuts. That's fine. Everybody will just take pills to receive their vitamins, minerals, and omega acids. I get it.

However, a significant number of the animals we eat rely on fruits and vegetables, the production of which would not be possible without bee pollination.

What bothers me about these environmental issues is the idea of creeping norms. The temperature goes up just a little bit from year to year, so that, before anybody's realized it, Buffalo feels like Atlanta and plants don't grow as well anymore. Similarly, a few bees die off every year, and we make up for it by raising plants in greenhouses, until one day there just won't be enough bees to raise crops, and supporting that many greenhouses will eat up an extraordinary amount of resources, and then one day some old person will look up and say "wow, my quality of life is significantly worse than it was in in the year 2007. Why did I notice it until now?"

Roger said...

Monkey boy: you beat me to it--snopes lists it as undetermined; while Einstein was one heckuva physicist he wasnt an entomologist.

Roger said...

Wade--again, I understand your concern and will acknowledge your point about creeping norms. That said, I would argue there is a danger to over-reaction before the facts are in. Sometimes the consequences of taking action to cure one ill have unanticipated consequences; a very harsh, but I think relevant example: DDT, birds, and malaria. I dont know what the proper thing we should have done; I do know that by eliminating a powerful weapon in the fight against mosquitos we condemned many people to death from malaria. Thus my suggestion that perhaps the best course of action is to take notice (scientists are) and wait to see what can be done; then see what the costs and benefits are. Then act.

Monkeyboy said...

I'm not an entimologist either, what vegetables rely on pollination by honey bees?

sonicfrog said...

Here is a bit from an article my young niece posted on her blog:

They [scientists] 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.

Here's the stick in the honey of that theory - Europe and Japan have been far ahead of the US as far as cell phone coverage goes, so if cell phones were the cause of the disappearing bees, then it should have started happening over there first.

Why do people feel the need to jump on every crackpot theory brought forth by a scientist. Just because it's a scientist making the claim doesn't automatically make it fact.

Roger said...

Monkyboy: http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/PDFs/Pollination_PM.pdf

a lot of good stuff, except for rutabagas.

Wade Garrett said...

Roger - That's a good analogy. We don't know all of the facts yet. But people should think about stuff like this when they clear woods for sub-developments that nobody really needs, or buy a Hummer just because it looks cool. If everybody does a little bit, collectively we can do a great deal.

As with bees and global warming, we probably won't know whether what we're currently observing is a normal, temporary fluctuation or a permanent, irreversible trend until (if it is a permanent trend), its too late. I wish more people would consider the worse-than-best-case scenarios before acting sometimes.

Monkeyboy said...

Thanks Roger.

AllenS said...

Once upon a time, the earth got so warm, that it melted almost all of the glaciers. Thank God, it melted the one in Wisconsin.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

sonicfrog wrote:
Why do people feel the need to jump on every crackpot theory brought forth by a scientist. Just because it's a scientist making the claim doesn't automatically make it fact.


Just out of curiousity, how do YOU know this idea is a "crackpot theory?"

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

roger wrote:
I would argue there is a danger to over-reaction before the facts are in.


Roger, that's one of the most concise statements I've yet seen about Bush's foolishness in invading Iraq. Thank you.

AJ Lynch said...

Perhaps this commment belongs on Ann's psychiatry post today? Does anyone know if a mental illness has been identified for people (like Cyrus) who wish ill on the country because they are unhappy with the current occupant of the White House?

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

AJ Lynch wrote:
Does anyone know if a mental illness has been identified for people (like Cyrus) who wish ill on the country because they are unhappy with the current occupant of the White House?


Wow. Would you mind clarifying this for me AJ? Are you accusing me of being mentally ill, unpatriotic, or both?

And if you wouldn't mind AJ, will you please repeat any comments I've made that indicate that I wish ill on the country? Thanks, I know you want to help.

Revenant said...

With all due respect to Albert Einstein, the man was wrong about the bees. This is a good example of the argument from authority fallacy.

Wikipedia has a good page on pollination management here. There is also a link there to this USDA document on pollination, which expands quite a bit on the PDF monkeyboy linked to.

An important note about that PDF, by the way -- the list includes crops which benefit from bees but do not rely on them. The list of only those crops which *rely* on such pollination is much shorter. For example, none of our staple grain crops (and of course none of our livestock) actually require honeybee pollination, directly or indirectly.

rightwingprof said...

"It's not new and has nothing to do with cell phones or global warming."

You are correct. Bees started disappearing and continued to disappear in Indiana ten years ago. None here, either. I haven't seen a honeybee in, oh, four or five years.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Please allow me the cynicism of older age; in my 65 plus years on mother gaiaI have been through one hell of a lot more "crises," than you have and have learned to suspend judgment until a few more facts are known.

How very accurate. I’m a few years behind you Roger but echo exactly what you say. I remember wondering if we were all going to freeze to death back in the early 70s or die of swine flu. Then I had college professors telling me we’d be plum out of oil by 2000 which was no big deal because we’d all be dead from AIDS unless Reagan nuked all us first. Then we all faced the end of the modern world with Y2K, then when that fizzled we looked forward to SARS and now the vaunted Bird Flu which is 10 years late in being the next 1919 epidemic.

So yes, I think the ‘youths’ need to take a breather and not see every phenomonon as the End of Days. Not trying to be flippant about this but like Roger, I’ve been there, seen and heard it, got the T-shirt. It’s all good and well to grab an issue if you need to have some purpose in life. I myself have a wife, kid and job, after school crap, mortgage etc, so I have all the purpose I can handle at the moment especially as the past predictive performance of the End is Nigh crowd is pretty dismal.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Bees started disappearing and continued to disappear in Indiana ten years ago. None here, either. I haven't seen a honeybee in, oh, four or five years.

One of the race routes my cycling group has goes right by this bee farm which at least year was quite busy. I'll have to see if they're still up and running this time around.

El Presidente said...

Wade,

Please worry about this for me. I just don;t have the time.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

rightwingprof said...
"It's not new and has nothing to do with cell phones or global warming."

You are correct.


Rightwingprof, if you wouldn't mind, please explain to me how you know that the use of cell phones doesn't contribute to CCD.

Frankly, I'm amazed by the incredible scientific expertise to be found at this blog. It's just a shame that it's not being shared with the scientific community.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

hoosier daddy,

With all due respect, I don't think the problem is that the scientific consensus on climate change, flu epidemics, AIDS, etc... has been wrong; I think the problem is that there's been very poor understanding of the science by the media and by the general public. And in my opinion, this applies to both the alarmists and the deniers.

People prefer certainty over uncertainty. Therefore it's not surprising to find that, for example, people want to either insist that cell phones cause CCD or state with certainty that cell phones can't contribute to CCD. The truth is that we don't know yet, and although the use of cell phones seems a less plausible cause than other factors, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, particularly by people who aren't working on the problem or very familiar with the scientific issues involved.

Somehow, we need to find a more thoughtful way to talk calmly about scientific issues and be more open-minded to other points of view.

Tibore said...

Jeez, Cyrus, feeling combative today? The article itself reveals that researchers are leaning towards explanations such as pathogens, and as a possible secondary hypothesis, environmental toxins. The "cell phone" possibility was mentioned in the same paragraph as the "bee rapture", i.e. as an incredulous example, not a credible one. So it doesn't take much to see where the consensus lies. And given that, what's wrong with agreeing with the scientific consensus?

AJ Lynch said...

Cyrus:

Your comments make it obvious you desperately want these dire scenarios (global warming, vanishing bees) to come true so you can blame Bush, and America, and republicans, etc.

If that is not wishing ill to this country what is it? If I view your outlook as a form mental illness, so what.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Tibore wrote:
Jeez, Cyrus, feeling combative today?

Tibore, I tend to question people when I see them assert things as fact that aren't established as fact. Plus I'm always curious about how people claim to know things.

The article itself reveals that researchers are leaning towards explanations such as pathogens, and as a possible secondary hypothesis, environmental toxins. The "cell phone" possibility was mentioned in the same paragraph as the "bee rapture", i.e. as an incredulous example, not a credible one.

I'm skeptical about the relationship between cell phones and CCD. I'm familiar with the work of Jochen Kuhn and I note that he doesn't claim that cell phones cause CCD. However, it may be simplistic to believe that CCD has a single cause, and with that in mind, I see no good reason to eliminate certain aspects of the environment from consideration.

That said, my point here is more about the way people think about scientific issues than it is about cell phones and CCD.

So it doesn't take much to see where the consensus lies. And given that, what's wrong with agreeing with the scientific consensus?

As far as I know, there is no scientific consensus yet. Moreover, I don't use the New York Times as a gauge of scientific consensus. In any case, I don't think the following statement that I challenged reflects scientific consensus, as you imply:

1. It's not new and has nothing to do with cell phones or global warming.

(Note that the link provided by the author partly contradicts his claim.)

PatCA said...

"...the birds and the bees who make our lives possible?"

Do they make our lives possible? I don't think it's that simple. And actually, from what I read, the rise in temperature peaked in 1998, and now it's retreating again.

IOW, Wade, chill, we've all been though this crisis stuff before and are still here to mock it.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

AJ,

Considering that you've accused me of mental illness and being unpatriotic, I've been very generous with you. In fact, in response to your accusations I made a very fair offer:

And if you wouldn't mind AJ, will you please repeat any comments I've made that indicate that I wish ill on the country?

Instead of responding in a fair and direct way with specific examples, you simply repeat your accusations. Why are you behaving in such cowardly fashion?

If you have any evidence that I "wish ill on the country," let's see it now. If not, take responsibility for your mistake and apologize for it.

Come on AJ, show some courage. If you have any dignity, you will skip the hysterical babbling this time and give me a fair response.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

patca,

I'm not sure what "temperature" you're referring to, but this is from the NASA climate summary (through 2005):

The highest global surface temperature in more than a century of instrumental data was recorded in the 2005 calendar year in the GISS annual analysis.

Palladian said...

I love bees, they're one of the special species. I would gladly trade a cell phone for a bee any day. This story has really worried me.

Eric said...

Classical Values has an interesting post on this issue (http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2007/04/post_319.html).

It appears honey bees account for a small percentage of total pollination. Pollen bees account for a much larger percentage.

MadisonMan said...

Half a bee, with CCD, must ipso facto half not be.

But can the bees be said to be or not to be an entire bee, when half the bees, are not in trees, due to that cursed CCD?

Singing!

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Classical Values has an interesting post on this issue

The Classical Values website post on pollination is nonscientific garbage. This is what happens when people without a scientific background step forward to share their opinion on the specifics of scientific issues.

Bissage said...

Palladian, I’m with you. Honey bees are always welcome in our garden. The bumblebees are okay and all, but they’re not cute. Every spring we get a little worried the honey bees won't show up. But so far, so good.

MM, absolutely hysterical! Semi-carnally?

Bissage said...

Great Caesar’s Coconut Car!!!

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

There’s no cause for alarm.

The Honeybees will live forever!!!

rightwingprof said...

"Rightwingprof, if you wouldn't mind, please explain to me how you know that the use of cell phones doesn't contribute to CCD."

You need remedial reading classes. I said nothing about cell phones. You might also benefit from a basic logic (or statistics) class. If you are going to posit a causative effect between two unrelated variables, the burden of proof is entirely on your shoulders.

Prove away.

rightwingprof said...

Bumblebees aren't cute? How can you say that!

Bissage said...

We report. You decide.

Besides, around here, bumblebees are territorial and will attack anything with legs that walks around the wrong corner of the house in early summer.

Not that they deserve the fate I once witnessed. A praying mantis snatched one off a flower while it was gathering pollen. The mantis grabbed the bee by the head and the stinger (as if it were an ear of corn) and methodically hollowed it out, the bee still alive.

Nasty!

Simon said...

It's not a mystery. They're all nesting under my dang garden shed, and every time I try to take the mower out, they remind me of this.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

rightwingprof wrote:

You need remedial reading classes. I said nothing about cell phones.


Well, to be accurate, (and obviously accuracy is important to you), I asked you to explain how you know that the use of cell phones doesn't contribute to CCD. But according to you, you made no assertion that cell phones don't contribute to CCD. Let's check what you actually wrote then:

"[CCD is] not new and has nothing to do with cell phones or global warming."

You are correct.


So, when you wrote "you are correct" in reference to CCD having nothing to do with cell phones, you didn't mean CCD had nothing to do with cell phones? What exactly did you mean then?

Sorry Doc, but it looks like I'm not the one who needs remedial reading classes. Thanks for trying to be helpful, but you need to do your homework before you try to lecture others.