At home, I use dial-up. Am I the last one? Does anyone else know what it's like to be able to go get a cup of tea between clicks? At school, things are lightning fast. The contrast is dramatic.
Here at home we might shortly get Washtenaw Wireless, a county initiative to hookup the "most rural and outlying areas." Everyone would then have low-cost high-speed internet connectivity. Great, right?

For connecting to the wide world, great.
But...

Has anyone heard about Colony Collapse Disorder? No, it's not about social networking, not this sort anyhow.
Bees are dying, all over the country, and in Europe, too. It's inexplicable. The hive itself will be intact and seemingly healthy. The honey supply will be plentiful; bodies of sick or dead bees are not to be found. The bees just simply disappear.

Why this isn't front page news in every major newspaper, I don't know.

Scientists are onto this. They're working to find out what in the world is going on, and are generating a lot of theories: climate, stress, pesticides, an accumulation of viruses. There's also a theory that I initially dismissed as "way out there": wireless connections may be disrupting the bees' ability to navigate or communicate.

I didn't give that theory the time of day until last weekend when I went for a walk with my neighborhood friend who's a beekeeper. I noticed a big red mark on her forehead and asked her about it.
Her response: "Oh, I should have known better. I was so stupid. My phone went off and i just answered it, right while I was checking on the hive."
"Yeah...so..."
"Instantly one took a dive bomb at my face and then the whole hive was alarmed. I got out of there, fast. See my stings?"
I was incredulous. "You think the phone going off made the bees mad?" (She doesn't even use the ringer, just keeps it on vibrate. She carries the phone in her pocket.)
"Without doubt. Beekeepers know (or should know, I was SO stupid) that you don't use devices around bees. Very dangerous."

After talking with her, I began wondering. What if there actually is a connection between the demise of the bees and our luxurious connectivity to wireless communications? Could this possibly be a factor in the problems the bees are having? I'm wondering if I should be quite as enthusiastic about our wild area going wireless.

Is this silly?

Tags: bees, insects, nature, science

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Hi Paci,


That is a beautiful, deep, thoughtful painting. What a wonderful thing to share on CR2.0. Thank you so much for sharing this!


Regarding the bees, the die-off is far more severe than ever before; it doesn't appear to be a seasonal variation but something more extreme.

Let's hope it's temporary; that a way to help the bees will be found.
Connie,

You are not alone in thinking this stuff in your neck of the woods. Back in May I had a long conversation with Carrie Seabury's dad about the the bees, the die offs, and cell phone / cell towers. You two should get together on this since you are in the same neck of the woods.

Ed
There are some more good references out about the trouble bees are in. One is in Science News (July 28, 2007) "Not-So-Elementary Bee Mystery Detectives sift clues in the case of the missing insects" by Susan Milius (http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070728/bob9.asp), and one in The New Yorker magazine (Aug. 6, 2007), "Department of Entomology, Stung, Where have all the bees gone" by Elizabeth Kolbert (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/06/070806fa_fact_kolbert)

Both articles come up with the conclusion that what's going on is complicated and different from previous population declines, both are saying that a number of factors may be coming together to create a particularly grave condition. In each article you get to follow the experiences of beekeeper Dave Hackenberg who rents out his hives as migrant pollinators all over the nation. Hackenberg is an astute and passionate advocate for the health of bees. His scientific and professional awareness of the current status of bees has increased awareness and led to the scientific community launching research projects about the bees.

Science news writes about Ian Lipkin, a pathogen hunter--one who made very important discoveries about West Nile early on, and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, apiarist from Penn State. From the article: "In the typical case, colonies dwindled in a matter of weeks. Large numbers of bees simply vanished, and the few that remained showed a loss of appetite. Bees in neighboring colonies reacted oddly too. Instead of raiding an abandoned store of honey as soon as possible, they left the afflicted hive alone for days, " We hear that "What the bees did have in common, though, was recent stress, such as from a lot of travel between assignments. Stress could have left the colonies vulnerable to some other menace, the researchers speculated."

In the New Yorker article (six pages and a main feature of this week's edition) there are all sorts of things to get you spooked out. Listen to this: Van Engelsdorp wasn't initially very concerned, but "What convinced him otherwise was slicing up some bees that Hackenberg brought from Florida. Normally, if you cut open a bee its innards, viewed under a microscope, will appear white. Hackenberg’s bees were filled with black scar tissue. They seemed to be suffering not so much from any particular ailment as from just about every ailment. 'There was just so much wrong with them,' van Engelsdorp recalled. 'And there weren’t any mites.' (Mites have caused population declines in the past.) "The bees were infected with just about every bee virus known, including deformed-wing virus, sac-brood virus, and black-queen-cell virus, and also by various fungi and bacteria. In addition, genetic analysis revealed the presence of new pathogens, never before sequenced. Such was the level of infection that vanEngelsdorp and other researchers concluded that the bees’ immune systems had collapsed. It was as if an insect version of AIDS were sweeping through the hives."

And if that's not quite spooky enough, there's news about the other pollinators, who will be much needed due to the bees' decline. "The National Research Council issued a report titled 'The Status of Pollinators in North America.' Fifteen scientists from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico had spent a year reviewing the available literature and interviewing experts. They noted that few systematic studies had been done; still, there was plenty of evidence of decline. The Franklin bumblebee, for instance—a mostly black bee native to northwest California and southwest Oregon—was abundant in 1998, but the following year went into a steep and probably terminal decline. None were seen in 2004 and 2005 and only one was found last year. Similarly, the rusty patched bumblebee, once common in New York, hasn’t been sighted since 2001. In Britain, where better records have been kept, more than half the native bumblebee species either have become extinct or are facing extinction in the next few decades. Among the many possible contributing factors that the report cited are habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and introduced pathogens." So we also need to study the question of whether there will be viable, available wild pollinators.

Important? I'd say so. Rather major news by any measures. Let's stay attuned.
Current research about the bees:


news just in at the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/07/science/07bees.html?_r=1&oref...

"Scientists sifting genetic material from thriving and ailing bee colonies say a virus appears to be a prime suspect — but is unlikely to be the only culprit — in the mass die-offs of honeybees reported last fall and winter.

The die-offs, in which adult bees typically vanished without returning to hives, were reported by about a fourth of the nation’s commercial beekeepers. The losses captured public attention as rumors swirled about causes, like climate change, cellphone signals and genetically-modified crops. Scientists have rejected those theories.

Now, one bee disease, called Israeli acute paralysis virus, seems strongly associated with the beekeeping operations that experienced big losses, a large research group has concluded, although members of the team emphasized that they had not proved the virus caused the die-offs."

"The project involved an unusual partnership between entomologists and scientists working at the leading edge of human genetic research. It employed the same technology being used to decode Neanderthal DNA and the personal genome of James Watson, a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

The research was described yesterday in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science. Details are available at eurekalert.org/bees." (New York Times, Andrew C. Revkin, September 7, 2007)
New research in CCD is indicating that it's a virus that's killing the workers and leaving the queens and broods to die.

Why it's being so virulent in the US is not yet known, but the suspicion is that US hives are more stressed because of the other kinds of fungal, bacterial, and parasitic loads they are under.

It's not the wireless.
Saw that, too. Interesting--they grind up the bees to extract DNA, luckily that's not the only way to get it from humans.
Hi, heard /watched about "Colony Collapse" yesterday on TV.Its an alarming phenomenon,the repercussions can be very detrimental.Thatswhy the scientists are worried.I come from India,the cellphone phenomenon has gripped my nation too.When the cell phone usage grew ,naturalist and scientist observed a sudden decline in the population of common sparrows.The other factors like pesticides,noise,less greenery were there before also but cell phones were new.There is a definite connection between the wireless signals and the poor birdies dying.For a nature lover like me this is something very unnerving.
More on the bees:

"Bayer Pesticide Chemicals Linked to Devastating Collapse of Honey...
," sent to me by a friend. I haven't run a check against other recent scientific studies, don't know how reliable the article is, but certainly continue watching for discoveries. Anyone know more?

And just for interest's sake, wanted to report that one day while running by the bee tree (that had an entire population die out last year, and then a new one move in this spring), something came over me. I decided to put my cell phone right up to the bees' entry hole. Just held it up, about 4 inches away. (The bees are used to me being there, used to me having my hands right by their hole, never had shown any reaction.) This time I had to run quick from the attack! My face was a bit swollen; it was hard to explain to people why I was stung...

That of course doesn't indicate anything about harm being done to bees by cell phones. (That theory has pretty much been cast out.) But it does show that cell phones annoy them!

Anyhow, news or interest in the topic?

Connie
http://firesidelearning.ning.com
Two years later, reporting in with a summary of the latest studies. No, not cell phones. But everything else, perhaps? In this article you'll find a run-down of the theories being tested, and a zooming-in one in particular, IAPV (Israeli acute paralysis virus--which likely came to us from Australia). We still don't know cause and effect. It's still an issue of vital importance, affecting the big picture of ecology, both natural and human.

Thanks for letting me put up this off-beat topic...

CR2.0, thanks, thanks for so much. You've opened up worlds to so many. People get to reach out, to share what's on their minds. Technology, education, matters of concern for us in the big picture, sites, resources, philosophy, news--

I think of when I started this forum so long ago (two years is long ago?!)--I bet there were about 300 people here back then.

Anyhow, check out this article from Scientific American: "Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Bees."

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