Dr. May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois recently did an interview with the Smithsonian Magazine, which talks about the various things leading to the near extinction of the honey bee in North America.
While he jokingly purports that he thinks Aliens may have decided the Honey Bee is the most intelligent species on the planet and has been abducting them in droves for re-colonization or possibly for the $14.6 billion worth of free labor. More likely it is the result of humans trying to protect bees.
Why do bees matter? Because we like our Jamba Juice and Chocolate Covered Almonds, and a whole host of foods that are dependant on bees for reproduction. With out the pollination provided by bees many crops won’t bear fruit.
Americans will go to war for oil, but it is likely we will riot in the streets if other less obvious things quadrupled in price. Imagine the $20 Smoothie. Or the cereal aisle devoid of any sort of dried fruit cereal.
There are other pollination methods, Humming bird, wind, Bumble Bees and butterflies, however these methods lack the sheer numbers that even the dwindling population of honey bee offers. Oddly the thing most likely to save crops is something North America has feared for a long time. Africanized Honey Bees.
“Killer” bees are much more resistant to the two biggest threats to Honey Bees, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and varroa destrucor a mite that not only kills bees, but spreads deformed wing virus and acute bee paralysis virus.
98% of wild honey bees died between 1987 and 1994. Mostly as a result of this small parasite. Combined with CCD, even domesticated or managed hives are half what they were 10 years ago.
Domestication is the most likely culprit for why bees became so vulnerable. Prior to domestication bees were not picked up and shipped whole hives at a time to fields and orchards. A practice common in California which can cause diseases that are normally regional to spread to other regions.
Because most domestic bees came from the same original gene pool there is less diversity which results in all bees being susceptible to the same diseases, so any one disease has the potential to be devastating.
We had better start preparing the nanites, because if bees don’t bounce back, Africanize, or the varroa destructor gets a nasty disease of its own, we may be building robo-bees to do the $14.6 billion worth of labor. Or maybe we could get cheap labor from Mexico if we haven’t deported all of the immigrants.
Invest in Q-Tips we’re going to need them to pollinate by hand.