I recently visited the Puyallup Fair located in Washington State and spoke with some beekeepers about the plight of the bees. One of my fears was hearing all about colony collapse disorder where entire bee colonies abandon their hives. I was interested to hear what the beekeepers had to say about this. One basically attributed it to two different problems.
The first problem is pesticides on plants. He spoke about the sweet old lady with the prize roses. He said, “You want to know why they’re prize roses the size of basketballs? It’s because she sprays an entire cloud of poisonous pesticides that kill off all the pests. However, what do you think it does to the bees? They get sick and bring that illness back to the hive, and all the other bees get sick.” Many point the finger at Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds which are pesticide-resistant and laden with dangerous chemicals such as neonicotinoids like clothianidin.
He said the other problem we are facing is a lack of diversity for breeding queens. An old act that was called the Honeybee Protection Act actually did the exact opposite of protecting the honeybees. It limited the number of bees that could be imported from overseas. The hypothesis was, if limited, they could not accidentally import other predators such as tracheal mites. However, those invaders got here anyway. The bees didn’t. It just ended up limiting honeybee diversity instead.
What’s the good news in all of this? People are taking notice. A new piece of legislation called the Save America’s Pollinator Act, H.R. 2692 has been proposed. This comes on the heels of 50,000 bees dying in a Target parking lot in Oregon after spraying it with pesticides. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the proposed nationwide ban on neonicotinoids. If passed, it would be a big victory for the bees.
In other news, Washington State University researchers are compiling a bank of bee semen. This comes from specially selected U.S. and European honey bee colonies and is cryogenically frozen.
Along with the creation of the bank, they will use “genetic cross-breeding methods to produce more diverse, resilient honey bee subspecies that could help thwart the nation’s current colony collapse crisis.”
There’s hope for the bees yet.