June 15, 2007

The Truth About Colony Collapse Disorder

The Washington City Paper has a new article on the sudden crash in the bee population over the last year. The good news is, the culprit is almost certainly not your cell phone. The bad news is, it's probably industrial agriculture:
Compared to the bucolic trappings of small-scale beekeeping, with its stationary hives and natural feeding practices, commercial beekeeping operations are like entomological concentration camps. Large-scale apiarists maintain hundreds or thousands of hives, gorging the bees on high-fructose corn syrup in the winter, then dousing them in pesticides in the spring to kill mites (“They usually hire Mexicans to do that,” one beekeeper told me.) They then take them on the road in 18-wheelers, all the way across the country. Once the bees have reached their destination, they’re unleashed to pollinate fields and groves, then packed up and trucked back home. Transporting bees long distances is SOP for modern industrial beekeeping—but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the bees. A significant percentage of the increase in dead bees seems directly related to moving the hives.
The article also points the finger at a pesticide, imidaclorpid, that is known to cause nervous and immune system disorders in insects -- i.e., can cause bees to get sick and die. In both cases, the agriculture and chemical industries have prevented a serious examination of the issue. This is a great (if depressing) read, both because it dispels some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the bee collapse, and because it focuses our outrage at how our food supply has been put at risk by narrow corporate interests.

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