Thursday, March 21, 2019

Primer on bees, varroa mites and the ‘Beepocalypse’ that never was

This time it’s all about the bees! From the composition of a working hive to the diseases that plague honey bees, plant pathologist Steve Savage delves into the basics of bees.

| March 19, 2019

A world-famous expert on bees once said, “you can never tell with bees.” That was none other than Winnie the Pooh. Okay, so he is just a fictional character who really likes honey, but there is a grain of truth in what he said that is relevant today. Over the last 14 or so years there have been many dramatic warnings of a pending “bee apocalypse” that will threaten a significant part of the human food supply. Although this apocalypse has not materialized, and bee populations are healthy in many regions, that does not mean it isn’t a topic of importance.

Back in 2006, there was a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” in which many hives of bees mysteriously failed to survive through the winter. Much of the blame in the media and among activists focused on a particular class of widely used agricultural insecticides called neonicotinoids, or “neonics” for short. While this misguided focus is considered sensational “news” and great for the fundraising efforts of environmental groups, it’s really not that simple and it’s why I like to cite Pooh’s acknowledgment of some uncertainty and complexity when it comes to bees.

In a future PopAgriculture episode, I’ll get into the question of whether certain insecticides are or are not threatening a “bee apocalypse,” but on this episode I want to get into the basics on bees because they are an interesting component of the human food production system...........To Read More...

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