The Collapse of a Species
If I told you that pizza as you know it could very well drop off of the face of the earth within the next decade, how would you react? What about ice cream? Or persimmons, apples, pears and strawberries? If you’re from New York, that first question alone might’ve given you a heart attack. My apologies.
The staple cheese on pizza is mozzarella. Mozzarella is made from milk, which comes from dairy cows, specifically dairy cows that graze on alfalfa, a plant pollinated by three species of bees. Nearly a third of all food consumed by humans in North America is the result of pollination by those very creatures. That constitutes a $12 billion industry in the United States alone. So what’s the problem?
Within the last decade, 60% of the American honeybee population has died. The figures become increasingly alarming as we approach the present. In the winter of 2006, 32% of the population died. The following year, 36 percent. To put these numbers in perspective, picture a million beehives.
Now picture them all dead.
Those are just honeybees. 90% of the feral (wild) bee population in the U.S. no longer exists. Wildflowers which rely on bee pollination have declined by 70%. Beekeepers across the nation are reporting up to 80% of their colonies just…disappearing. Right before their eyes.
It’s a phenomenon referred to as colony collapse disorder. What’s causing it? That’s unclear.
Plausible explanations range from disease, urbanization, and parasitic mites called varroa. But bee populations have been fairly stable for decades, what’s suddenly changed?
Bayer, the German pharmaceutical corporation famous for its MDMA-resembling brand of aspirin, is also the mastermind behind another substance: clothianidin. It’s a systemic neonicotinoid pesticide, which was introduced to the food production industry in 1994, when it was approved by the EPA despite a warning issued which read “…this compound is toxic to honeybees.” Hitler, the Holocaust, and now honeybees. At least they still have Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. That was in bad taste. I apologize.
But do pesticides account for all these deaths? Recent studies seem to suggest otherwise.
Electromagnetic radiation pollutes urban landscapes without us even noticing it. Over 5.6 billion active mobile phones are on this planet. 330 million in the United States alone. The frequencies emitted between these devices and their corresponding cell towers have proven to cause behavioral disturbances within bee colonies. A study conducted by the Panjab University in North India involved attaching cell phones to a bee hive, and turning them on for two fifteen-minute periods each day. After 90 days, honey production ceased entirely, egg production halved, and the colony dwindled in size.
In addition to the devastation of hives, cell phone use interferes with a navigational pigment found in bees and other insects called cryptochrome. Cryptochrome serves as a natural homing device, used to sense direction based on the earth’s magnetic field. Cell phone radiation compromises the integrity of the pigment, and we’re left with millions of bees that can’t find their way home.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” Though the authenticity of this quote is disputed and probably invalid, it’s attributed to Einstein. He was a physicist, not an entomologist, and there’s really no context which this issue would’ve arisen in during the 19th or 20th centuries. But the claim remains perturbing, and could very well be true.
This certainly isn’t a new issue, or even a developing one. It’s been occurring for years, but has yet to come under the scrutiny it requires. So what can you do to help? Buying local and organic only goes so far.
Educate yourselves. Educate others.“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.”
Maybe one of you can make a difference.