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Bye Bye Bee Bee?

Both the BBC and The New York Times reported a vanishing act among America’s captive honeybee colonies; the diagnosis is the mysterious, specially named for this situation, “colony collapse disorder.”

Commercial beekeepers travel around and basically rent out their bees to pollinate crops, notably vegan favorites such as almonds and avocados. It’s more profitable than producing honey, but it has its downfalls. Like, for instance, when the bees are sent out to do their jobs, up to 70% of them might not come back. Presumably because they’re dying.

Why? One theory is that the bees are so stressed by all the commuting that their immune systems are suffering, which might result in a form of bee AIDS (BAIDS?). Another is that they get disoriented and exhausted, then die in the cold. Then there are the insecticides, which are harming queen bees, whose life spans are quickly dwindling (leading to an increase in the price of the queens). Pesticides could also be the culprit, affecting the bees’ ability to find their way back to their hives. Who knows, maybe they just couldn’t stand to work for The Man anymore.

In a follow-up in the Times May R. Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois wrote that “[I]t’s astonishing that beekeeping remains largely unimproved by technological advances relative to just about every other form of animal husbandry… The 21st century holds great promise for innovation.” Maybe not using bees could be one of them. It’s not so nice to pimp out mother nature.

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