Sep 17, 2009

New Documentary Sheds Light on Plight of Bees

Chuck MisslerBy Chuck Missler

A new study by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that scientists still do not know the exact cause of the disorder that has resulted in the mysterious disappearance of billions of honeybees. However there is some evidence that the bees may have been infected with multiple viruses that combined to create "the perfect storm."

This troubling phenomenon is the subject of a new documentary titled "The Last Beekeeper." The film follows commercial beekeepers from Montana, Washington, and South Carolina in an effort to shed light on the vital importance of honeybees and the struggles they face.

In recent years scientists have observed a pattern of abnormal behavior in colonies of honeybees across the nation - a puzzling phenomenon that could have far-reaching consequences. Thousands of colonies are dying off, and the cause remains a mystery. The problem began in 2006 and peaked last year. It is estimated that this phenomenon has resulted in the deaths of as much as 46 percent of the honeybee population throughout the United States.

Colony Collapse Disorder

For lack of a better name, scientists have dubbed this phenomenon "colony collapse disorder." Colony collapse disorder or CCD is the rapid and unexpected loss of adult worker bees from the colony over a very short period of time. Bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.

According to a report by the National Research Council,

"In CCD, the bee colony proceeds rapidly from a strong colony with many individuals to a colony with few or no surviving bees. Queens are found in collapsing colonies with a few young adult bees, lots of brood, and more than adequate food resources. No dead adult bees are found in the colony or outside in proximity to the colony. A unique aspect of CCD is that there is a significant delay in robbing of the dead colony by bees from other colonies or invasion by pest insects; this suggests the presence of a deterrent chemical or toxin in the hive."
Experts say that large-scale bee die-offs have happened before. However never before has the cause of death been so elusive. Scientists have so-far been unable to identify what is causing the deaths. The most likely possibilities are a parasite, an unknown virus, some kind of bacteria, pesticides, or some combination of these factors. A few have even suggested that the problem could be the result of fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field. Scientists believe the magnetic field is what enables migrating birds and other animals and insects - such as bees - to navigate. The problem has prompted congressional hearings and has left scientists around the world scrambling to find answers.

Why Are Bees So Important?

The reason experts are so concerned is that honeybees make more than just honey. Honeybee hives are rented out to growers to pollinate their crops, and many commercial beekeepers move around the country as the growing seasons change. Each year, an estimated 2 million bee colonies are rented out to farmers. What most people don't realize is that there are more than 90 crops that rely on honeybees for pollination. Among them are: apples, oranges, avocados, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, citrus fruit, melons, peaches, pears, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, celery, cucumbers, soybeans, almonds and various other nuts, as well as a wide variety of other crops. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about one-third of our food supply comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination. Even cattle, which feed on alfalfa, depend on bees.

Kevin Hackett, head of the USDA's bee and pollination program, described colony collapse disorder as "the biggest general threat to our food supply." He also said that if the collapse worsens, we could end up being "stuck with grains and water."

In the US, honeybees are used to pollinate 15 billion dollars worth of fruits, vegetables, nuts and other crops annually. Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation, described the importance of the bee population by saying "Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food." Thus the continued loss of billions of honeybees could have a substantial impact on our food supply and our economy.

Related Links

Documentary looks at plight of the honeybee - CNN
New Clues in the Mass Death of Bees - Time
Life Without Bumblebees? It's Not Just Honeybees That Are Mysteriously Dying - AlertNet
Biotech & Global Pestilence - Koinonia House
Behold A Black Horse - 66/40 Radio Broadcast - Listen Free! - Koinonia House
Prophecy 20/20: Profiling the Future Through the Lens of Scripture - Dr. Chuck Missler (Book)