I’ve heard rumblings about “colony collapse disorder” – CCD – and the devastating effect it’s had on bees, and of course, I was aware that bees do some nifty work vis-à-vis pollinating stuff, but I had no idea of the enormity of the implications of this problem until I watched this documentary on BBC4 last night.
In something of whodunit – that has even the world’s most foremost and expert entomologists scratching their heads – there were a few leads, and had this been an episode of Taggart, someone would’ve run in and announced, “There’s been a muhrrdurrr” and pointed an accusatory finger at a trio of likely perpetrators that include pesticides, a nasty parasite called the “varroa destructor” and… us.
Honey bees are the most vital insect pollinator on the planet and it was exceptionally alarming to hear that without their busy assistance, our entire system of global food production could well disintegrate…
Many experts primarily blame pesticides and in particular a relatively new strain that settles itself comfortably within the seeds of crops and therefore infects the bees causing them brain damage and amnesia which causes them to “forget their way back to the hive” which is what results in that hive’s collapse.
However, the only absolutely proven killer of honey bees is the aforementioned parasitic mite, varroa destructor. The varroa is found globally with the exception – rather oddly – of Australia so now bee farmers of the down under variety are raking it in by exporting their healthy, non-amnesiac bees to countries where the bee population is alarmingly low.
The fact that the export of these bees is in commercial aircraft is kinda scary so if you’re due on a Qantas flight anytime soon, just keep clear of the hold area and maybe give your clothes a shake when you unpack…
But on a more serious note, Martha Kearney, who made this film, ensured that the programme graphically pointed out the ecological disaster that colony collapse disorder is going to – unless an answer is found quick smart – cause. Honey bees, we heard, are responsible for the production and reproduction of more than ninety varieties of crops which include apples, cucumbers, berries, cabbages, nuts and even cotton and the knock-on effect of the other flora and fauna who down the line are affected by the action or inaction of bees, is formidable.
CCD has been reported globally and here in the UK, the issue has prompted beekeepers to call upon the government to fund research into what entomologists reckon is potentially a bigger threat to humanity than most of the other disasters that could befall us.
However, according to the Daily Express, it seems that the Government has just announced £10m worth of funding to find out what’s really causing CCD so maybe if Governmental counterparts around the world do the same, we won’t end up suffering the ecological fallout that at present, seems a distinct possibility.
One contributor to last night’s programme was Bee Wilson, the aptly named author of ‘The Hive’ who said, “When we think of beehives, we have this cuddly Winnie the Pooh image, but actually, they’re more like a mausoleum.”
Well, she’s without doubt right as this film ably demonstrated but personally, I recently joined a group on Facebook called ‘Never Been Stung By A Bee’ and I kinda live in mortal dread of it lest I turn out to be one of those people who goes into anaphylactic shock if I am stung, so no Bee, I don’t have any cuddly Winnie images; I’m just a tad scared of ‘em, but one thing’s for sure… I’ll never slap one upside the head with a fly-swatter again…
They’re clearly just too precious and I apologise to bees everywhere for the few I’ve personally depleted.