Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bee blight

The Willamette Week has a review about a certain movie that mentioned that we are in the middle of a massive bee apocalypse. The movie is unsurprisingly disappointing (it is not the first time that Dreamworks has brought in top talent only to squander it), but I found the bee die-off to be rather stunning. Consider:

What's causing the carnage, however, is a total mystery; all that scientists have come up with so far is a new name for the phenomenon - Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - and a list of symptoms.

In hives hit by CCD, adult workers simply fly away and disappear, leaving a small cluster of workers and the hive's young to fend for themselves. Adding to the mystery, nearby predators, such as the wax moth, are refraining from moving in to pilfer honey and other hive contents from the abandoned hives; in CCD-affected hives the honey remains untouched.

Emphasis mine. Now, far be it from me to be hysterical, but what is wrong with the honey? (By the way, if you want hysterics, I'd recommend reading the comments after the article - awesome.) If the pathogen is food-borne, how do the other insects know? Or is it more like when your dog growls at a stranger for no apparent reason and later you read that the same man mugged a grandmother and kicked a kitten - just some kind of bad bee mojo emanating from the vacant hive?

The CCD Working Group reported four months later that the culprit was likely viral. Just last month, Nature aired "The Silence of the Bees" (nice), an excerpt of which can be seen as a PBS podcast.

As a huge fan of honey and, of course, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, I found this all extremely interesting. Then again, it is the weekend and I'm undercaffeinated. Your results may vary. Just...maybe buy local honey, yeah? Good for the allergies, anyway.

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