EDITORIAL – The A’s, B’s, and C’s of the world’s disappearing honeybees

“Man,” I cried, “how ignorant art thou in thy pride of wisdom!”
– Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein

With this year marking the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, humanity as a whole remains no wiser than Mary Shelley’s archetypal “mad scientist.” We appear doomed to learn and relearn forever that there is one consistent lesson of any attempt to “play God” by interfering with complex ecosystems – whether its Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades, or green iguanas, lionfish or feral cats right here in Cayman: It is to beware of unintended consequences.

The most recent example of our collective hubris relates to what has been presented as one of the most important environmental issues of our time … not “global warming” … but the global collapse of bee colonies. (Oh, you haven’t been paying attention?)

While nobody likes bee stings, almost everybody likes honey – not to mention flowers and food. About one-third of American crops rely (either totally or in part) on pollination by bees. The syllogism, of course, would be: no bees = no pollination = no food.

In an effort to combat the long-term “plight of the honeybees,” the European Union is expected to vote soon on banning a popular class of insecticides believed to be contributing to the disappearance of bees and other flying insects. After reviewing 1,500 studies, EU scientists determined that the collapse of colonies has been caused by neonicotinoids – a relatively new class of insecticides that previously had been thought to be safer and more effective than older formulas.

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Amid mounting evidence that the neonicotinoids were not only ridding farmers’ fields of pests that damage crops, but also the bees that pollinate them, EU officials implemented a partial ban of the products in 2013. Now, they appear poised to ban them completely.

The apparent issue of the loss of bees and other pollinators cannot simply be shrugged off. About a decade ago, beekeepers in the United States began to report sudden, inexplicable losses of worker bees – a phenomenon now called “colony collapse disorder.”

According to research cited in a recent story in The Guardian newspaper about the EU’s potential pesticide ban, some 75 percent of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany.

No one knows with certainty what is causing these perceived declines in insect populations, or more narrowly the collapse of bee colonies. In truth, neonicotinoids are only one probable culprit identified by scientists. Other potential causes include invasive mites, new or emerging diseases, stress caused by bee management practices, changes in habitat, poor nutrition, or a combination of the above.

It makes intuitive sense that several factors would be contributing to bee deaths, but politicians – always eager to do something – would have a difficult time banning mites, disease or stress. Rather than admitting their limitations, they have jumped to do what little they can – in this case, to ban a certain class of chemicals.

The EU is not alone in this. Politicians in Australia (who for hundreds of years have been grappling unsuccessfully with ecological and agricultural devastation wrought by an invasive rabbit population) also appear ready to jump on the anti-neonicotinoid bandwagon, even though there have been no reports of colony collapse disorder in that country.

Recently, promising evidence has emerged in the U.S. that bees may be “recovering” from colony collapse disorder – as beekeepers have intensified efforts to grow additional colonies and improve the condition of hives.

Cayman, we know you are busy and most likely already too stressed to be too concerned over whether the world’s honeybee population, itself, is overly stressed. We do not blame you in the slightest. We are trying to make sense of all this ourselves.

The only thought that we can conjure up (so far) is that Cayman should be cautious whenever we start tinkering with complex ecosystems (hey, let’s kill our green iguanas or cull some lionfish or genetically modify our mosquitoes).

When it comes to Nature, “In God We Trust” might be a reasonable motto. No doubt, God knows what He’s doing – but it’s not at all certain that man does.

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  1. It is always dangerous when newspaper people start to delve into things they don’t really understand.

    The key to this issue is that neonicotinoids are man made insecticides (it was a mad scientist who produced them!) which, the scientific evidence suggests, is a significant factor in the demise of the bee population. The scientists do not say that this is the only factor, but the evidence from a large number of studies does put neonicotinoids in the dock. Only by banning them will we be able to see if there is a recovery.

    Of course, the US see this differently but their track record in eco management and protection is not great. Just look at the way costs have driven down the welfare of chickens to such an extent that in order to turn a profit the space, light and ventilation they are given has increased the number of microorganisms on the chicken when it is killed. To counter this, chickens in the US are washed in a chlorine solution but this is not always effective at removing the microorganisms leaving the consumer at risk.

    When it comes to protecting consumers, the food supply and the environment, I would rather rely on 1,500 studies that some journalist who doesn’t have a decent editorial subject to write.

    • A scientific study conducted indoor would produce different results than a study conducted outdoors ( artificial vs.natural light).
      A scientific study conducted in japan would produce different results than a study conducted in Norway ( magnetic field variations)

      I am not sure why do we generally hold science in high regard when it ignores, disregards the fact that physical environment such as light,magnetism, temperature, humidity, etc. vary significantly across the globe and affect the results of a study/experiment?

  2. pesticides are bad, period…. but still almost no scientists point to nonnative ( man made) electromagnetic frequencies (nnEMF). Biophysics preceed biochemistry. Change in a physical environment causes change in biochemistry of all living things.

    “EMF’s span large frequencies. …except for visible light and infrared EMF, we can not perceive any of these energies without instruments designed to find them. The problem is our brain senses them all without sensation being perceived consciously…This is why modern people do not realize how we have abruptly added massive manmade EMF’s to our environment. For 4 billion years, the energies that surrounded life were simple. There was the Schumann resonance; which essentially was a weak ELF electromagnetic field modulated by the micro-pulsations, sculpted by the solar and lunar cycles. There were random bursts of static electricity from lightning centered at 10,000 Hz and they reverberated over the entire Earth’s surface at any time. 3000-5000 of these strikes happen simultaneously. There were weak radio signals from distant stars. A light was present from our sun. UV and infrared was the most abundant form of EMF on the surface of the planet for 4 billion years. We perceive infrared EMF by sensing the heating of tissues. This heating effect is called the Schwan guideline, and it only takes in to account the thermal effects of EMF. The reason Schwan used this method initially is it was the only way to easily quantify EMF’s using temperature. That is easy to measure. If you own a microwave oven you know it too when you heat up something in it. But here is where our problem began. The biologic effects from EMF are not from the thermal release of energy. It is from the nonthermal effects. Today our current standards for technology are still based on the thermal standards alone. Schwan set it at 10,000 millivolts. …….. this is (nnENF)the greatest risk to the health you face today.” https://www.jackkruse.com/emf-5-what-are-the-biologic-effects-of-emf/

    “ When you add in massive amounts of nnEMF to the ionosphere things that live in that ionosphere have trouble living because of the pseudohypoxia it creates. This stresses mitochondria and thhings get ill more often and then die sooner. It is not hard to understand. God said, let there be light, so optics was born. Einstein replied, “let it be quantized”, then photonics was born. We’ve gone from stone age, to iron age, and now firmly in the electronic age but that age is coming to an end because we are hitting its physical limits. This might be mankind’s best news. Photonics holds huge promise because it has unlimited potential because light is able to carry energy and information without being encumbered by mass. This unique ability shrinks circuits, currents, and voltages while increasing communication and signaling transmission speeds while lowering non native EMF emissions. This is why bees are disappearing…………..enjoy your cell phones because they are killing all bugs. “ J.Kruse

    “More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas” http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0185809

    “So what does the power grid above the ground do to insects, cats, dogs, and bees, and birds? It ruins the circadian cycles because power lines give off a coronal discharge just like the sun does. The power grid however, unlike the sun, does not give off full spectrum light. “ https://www.facebook.com/drjackkruse/posts/1558602650870750