Friday, September 21, 2012

Blog 4: Mystery of the disappearing bees

     In the past 15 years an important part of our agriculture has been jeopardized by a certain insecticide. The western honey bee and other similar species play a key role in the pollination of many crops we consume. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been linked to the colony collapse disorder. Colony collapse disorder describes the disappearance of bee colonies across a great area. Neonicotinoids are a new type of insecticide created in the 80’s and 90’s. Millions of acres of crops are treated with these types of insecticides. Neonicotinoid imidacloprid is currently the most widely used insecticide used in the world. Neonicotinoids are chemically similar to nicotine, which is found in the cigarettes that many of us smoke. Neuroreceptors are blocked by the neonicotinoids and causes paralysis and death in insects. Over the past couple decades several studies have linked neonicotinoids to colony collapse disorder. Harvard’s school of public health as recreated a colony collapse just be administering small amounts of neonicotinoids to small populations of bees. France and Germany have already took action and banned the use of these types of insecticides. Due to the damage of bee colonies, agricultural entities have introduced changes to increase productivity of the bees. These changes, such as artificial diets and insemination of queen bees, has lead to a decrease in the wild bee diversity. Changes imposed upon bees may cause the species itself to become non existent. Bill McKibben states that “Past a certain point, we can’t make nature conform to our industrial model. The collapse of bee hives is a warning – and the cleverness of a few beekeepers in figuring out how to work with bees not as masters but as partners offers a clear-eyed kind of hope for many of our ecological dilemmas.” Bill’s statement explains that we must not just use the bees as a resource, but have a symbiotic relationship.

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