There’s been much ado about bees lately. They’re not doing so well. Colonies in their entirety have been disappearing. An article in the New York Times a couple weeks ago (Bees Vanish; Scientists Race for Reasons) describes a scenario called "colony collapse disorder" in which bees become disoriented and are unable to find their way back home. Historically, this is not the first time we’ve seen this type of behavior, but it’s the first time it’s reached such a massive scale, and on a global level too.
I’m sad for the bees. Can you imagine getting lost on your way home from the grocery store and never finding your way back -- your family waiting for their dinner, but never getting it?
But it’s not just the bees that are affected. We all love their Zen-like presence in the summer months. And I can’t imagine living without my Vermont honey. But these are mild, aesthetic pleasures. No, the big problem with bees disappearing is that human life as we know it could not exist without them. That’s because the majority of our crops rely on bees for pollination. No bees, no food for us. They’re miracle life workers, those bees!
So why are they disappearing?
Sophie, my beekeeper friend in Provence, once told me that pesticides are the cause, that it’s the chemicals that are causing the bees to lose their orientation. The Times articles states many theories -- viruses, mites, disease, pesticides, stress, poor diet -- but scientists don’t know for sure and are hesitant to single out just one cause at this point. It could be a combination of many factors.
The Department of Agriculture has concluded that we rely too heavily on bees as a primary pollinator. I can just imagine that in the near future, we’ll have found new methods of pollination (robots?). Bees won’t be in the picture any more. But that doesn’t mean we can forget about them or lose sight of their value in our world.
The term “beekeeper” should not be taken lightly. Yet, a good number of the possible reasons for the bees’ current demise are directly related to human interference. Is there a way that we as consumers can make a difference this late in the game? I’m not so sure. Awareness is a start. Maybe we could try only buying local, organic food and avoid supporting large-scale farms and crops that require mass transportation of bee hives for pollination. Maybe we could all use a little less honey.
What’s apparent to me is that bees rely on humans just as much as we rely on them. We need to give back a little of what we take -- food, serenity, life.
For now, I’m sending out some good vibes. I hope our bee friends find their way home.