What's on my mind.

30 April 2007

Land of Milk and Honey (maybe)

I've now read a couple of things about Colony Collapse Disorder in bees. (hereand here) I think the Independent went a little overboard and forgot that correlation does not equal causation but I still have a couple of questions. Maybe you readers out there can help me out.

I guess I never thought about how crops get pollinated. Corn gets helped out by teenagers (who are taking the place of wind). I've hand fertilized a couple of bell peppers. But on the whole I just figured that the natural insect population took care of most of my fruits, nuts, and seed (and "vegetables" that are really fruits). From the articles I gather that there are large hives that are rented by farmers to come pollinate their crops? WOW! Is that right? How exactly does that work? Do bees not get disoriented when the hive gets moved like that?

Why honey bees? One article noted that honey bees are not native to North America. Do they mean the ones we use for honey production or are there no native honey producers? If so, why do so many crops rely on honey bees? Are there no native insects that would do as well (albeit without the fringe benefit of honey production)? All plants native to North America would have adapted to native pollinators here(although NA is a big place). I've got to tell you that I'm not sure I've every seen a honey bee in my yard but I have lots of other bees and wasps. My holly bushes will have a bumper crop this year (hopefully so will my garden!). The bugs I've got work out pretty well.

One interesting suggestion in a comment on the green-living blog I read was that part of the problem was lack of genetic diversity. I gathered that the honey bees are artificially inseminated and lack diversity. The commenter said her bees were wild pollinated and seemed to be doing better than some neighbors. If the industry is using AI, why are they not insuring genetic diversity? Dog breeders have learned but bee keepers haven't? (not sure that's the best analogy, but...) Or is the bee breeding industry just waking up to the problems of inbreeding? in that case, maybe they should read some history (Egyptian pharaohs or European noble families in the 19th century) or diseases and disorders common in pure breed dogs

Just a few questions.

Be kind to your 6-legged neighbors - they are your friends!

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