Is the “bee crisis” yet another alarmist fiction?

I don’t really know a great deal about bees. I have been stung by bees twice in my life. I was not threatening them in any way and both paid the price of their insolence and died. Every year we have ” a lot” of bees in our garden where ” a lot” is my subjective assessment of the number of times I have to swat them away or have to move while dozing in the sun. I have not noticed any great difference – this summer – in the number of bees that I have “interacted” with. I am well aware that they play a very important  (but not indispensable) role in pollination and I do like honey even if I have to watch my sugar intake.

In the last year or so I have been bombarded with articles greatly alarmed about the catastrophic decline of honey bees and strident calls  – especially in the over-bureaucratic EU – for the banning of various pesticides (neonicotinoids) which are decimating the bee population.  A new “syndrome” has been invented – Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The UK has not gone along with the ban so far.

“The two-year European Union ban on neonicotinoids was justified as a way to tackle CCD. It is perhaps worth pointing out that France banned the neonicotinoids in the 1990s, and it has seen no marked reduction in CCD.”

But it could all be just another case of what may well be a perfectly “natural” variation being blown up by alarmist environmentalists. I am coming to the view that every time an “environmentalist” invents a new catastrophe it is just to inflate the importance of his own advocacy.

Bjorn Lomborg writes:

There is no bee crisis

Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no “bee-pocalypse.” There is lots of alarmist talk about colony collapse disorder, people are blaming pesticides and talking about hundreds of billions of dollars at risk. But a closer look tells a very different story.

Yes, honeybees are dying in above-average numbers, but the most likely cause is the varroa mite and associated viruses.

Moreover, if you look at the actual numbers, they undermine much of the catastrophic rhetoric. In the United States, where we have good data, beekeepers have adapted to CCD. Colony numbers were higher in 2010 than any year since 1999. The beekeepers are not passive victims.

Instead, they have actively rebuilt their colonies in response to increased mortality from CCD. Although average winter mortality rates have increased from around 15 per cent before 2006 to more than 30 per cent, beekeepers have been able to adapt to these changes at fairly low cost and to maintain colony numbers.

Honeybee deaths are also nothing new. The Breakthrough Institute reports that, in 1853, Lorenzo Langstroth, the 19th-century bee-keeper who invented the modern hive, described colonies that were “found, on being examined one morning, to be utterly deserted. The comb was empty, and the only symptom of life was the poor queen herself.” In 1891 and 1896, large clusters of bees vanished in a case known as May Disease.

In the 1960s, bees vanished mysteriously in Texas, Louisiana and California. In 1975, a similar epidemic cropped up in Australia, Mexico and 27 U.S. states. There were heavy losses in France from 1998 to 2000 and also in California in 2005, just two years before CCD was first diagnosed. ….

…… Many have pointed toward pesticides as the main reason of colony collapse disorder. The two-year European Union ban on neonicotinoids was justified as a way to tackle CCD. It is perhaps worth pointing out that France banned the neonicotinoids in the 1990s, and it has seen no marked reduction in CCD.

Recent science articles instead point clearly to mites and viruses: “Varroa mites and viruses are the currently the high-profile suspects in collapsing bee colonies.”

Overall, the CCD is a problem we need to tackle, but it is not by any stretch of the imagination as bad as it is made out. …. 

CCD – it seems – may be an over-exaggerated and alarmist figment of an over-fertile “green” imagination.

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