I just got back from the grocery store. It took me four hours to move through the gate check; the Produce Police were being more thorough than usual after the bombing attempt at the Pittsburgh Costco last week. I was only able to get one recyclable sack of fruit and vegetables. I thought I had enough in my wallet, since I was carrying $500, but the prices have gone up another fifteen percent since last month. A lot of good that Obama's price caps are doing. Between the price inflation we've been experiencing lately, thanks to the FED last decade, and the scarcity of food, money sure doesn't seem to buy what it used to.
Doesn't it seem like everytime you go to the grocery store, the prices have risen again? Where will it all stop? I can barely afford to put food on the table now. The scarcity of fruits and vegetables - since the United States had to switch to hand-pollination - is truly insane. I can't remember what an almond tasted like. The prices aren't even the worst part. I worked hard all my life, and due to wise investments, consider myself fairly well off. I used to say "well, at least I'm not going to starve." I'm not so sure that's true anymore. What's the use of being wealthy if all the food is being rationed?
Anyway, I thought you'd like to know. No apples again. The sign was still there from last month "Washington Delicious Apples, $9 apiece, compare and save!" It hasn't even been two full years since the complete disappearance of the bees in 2010, and they still haven't found a better way to pollinate the apple blossoms than the migrant American farm workers. But even the fastest among them can only work about twenty trees a day. The apple crop fell 91%. What's left doesn't make it far off the West Coast, what with gas and diesel in double digits now. Mike, I heard you guys in Florida were trying to train the preying mantis to pollinate. How's that working out?
When Apis mellifera, the common honeybee, completes the vanishing act that it began in earnest in 2006, it may very well become common to intercept messages like this on the Internet. Early in 2007, scientists mobilized to form task forces to study the perplexing disappearances, and labeled the malady Colony Collapse Disorder. CCD is identified when it manifests a simultaneous syndrome of symptoms which, as we learn from Wikipedia include: "Complete absence of adult bees in colonies, with little or no build-up of dead bees in or around the colonies. Presence of capped brood in colonies. Bees normally will not abandon a hive until the capped brood have all hatched.
Presence of food stores - both honey and bee pollen - which are not immediately robbed by other bees and which, when attacked by hive pests such as wax moth and small hive beetle, the attack is noticeably delayed. Precursor symptoms that may arise before the final colony collapse are: Insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present; the workforce seems to be made up of young adult bees; the Queen is present, and colony members are reluctant to consume provided feed, such as sugar syrup and protein supplement." End quote. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder
What is causing the bees to abandon their hives? There seem to be as many theories as there are researchers, and they are slow to reach a consensus. Early research would seem to indicate one likely cause, then be refuted. Scientists and beekeepers have put forth diverse ideas -ranging from cell phones and their towers negatively affecting the bees ability to navigate - to a host of natural mites and predators. There are viruses, stress, and immune system compromise - possibly exacerbated by pesticide usage - to consider as well. Finally, global warming and exposure to genetically modified crops have been proffered as theories.
Each theory offers at least a modicum of plausibility, but detractors soon find fault, questioning the validity of the claims. An issue of The Independent, a British periodical that was published April 15, 2007, proposed in their Nature section that mobile phones could be the problem. They wonder - after encountering a study done by Dr. Jochen Kuhn of Landau University - whether radiation emitted by mobile phones and other high-tech gadgets could be hampering the bees capability to navigate. Does such radiation destroy their sense of direction, resulting in their inability to return to their hive? http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/are-mobile-phones-wiping-out-our-bees-444768.html
The preliminary findings, based on a limited study conducted by the German scientist, demonstrated that bees will not return to their hive if a cell phone is placed nearby, but the doctor admitted only that it "provides a hint" to a possible cause. An Indian researcher in the southern state of Kerala - Dr. Sainudden Pattazhy, Dean of Zoology at Sree Naranyala College in Punalur - attempted to replicate the experiments and expand upon them. He discovered that high power transmission lines that crossed the bee habitat had a deleterious effect upon them. http://www.physorg.com/news170920128.html
He noted that placing a cell phone - which emit radiation in the 900 - 1800MHZ range - nearby, was enough to cause the bees to avoid returning to the hive. Subsequently, the hive would perish within ten days. "The electromagnetic waves emitted by the towers crippled the 'navigational skills' of the worker bees that go out to collect nectar from flowers to sustain bee colonies," avers Pattazhy. "If towers and mobile phones further increase, honey bees might be wiped out in 10 years." High power transmission lines are known to impact the migratory patterns of birds, so it is possible that this theory has some validity. http://articles.sfgate.com/2009-12-16/entertainment/17224322_1_cell-phones-honeybee-population-colony-collapse
Early suspicion turned towards Varroa destructor, the mites that are known to have devastated bee stocks in the late 80's and 90's. But some studies concluded only a very few colonies in each group had high Varroa levels. The brood patterns did not present characteristic bee parasitic mite syndrome (BPMS) symptoms. Varroa mites continue to be a threat and surely some losses this year have been as a result of high mite levels. Varroa mites levels do not explain the sudden loss of adult bees in these colonies. http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15908
There are even proponents who feel that, if indeed, bees are suffering their own form of AIDS, be it in this case Avian Immune Deficiency Syndrome, then possibly the way to overcome this weakness would be to cross-breed the honeybee with other bee strains. But if you were to conduct gene splicing of Apis mellifera scutellata Lepeletier - the African Honeybee - into the genome structure of Apis mellifera in hopes of toughening them up, the same problem that afflicts the bees right now could reassert itself. And as there are pros to any proposal, there are cons as well. Honey production would be negatively impacted.
Overall, product quality and taste might actually increase. Can't you just imagine pouring a dollop of glistening golden hybridized bee honey onto your warm fluffy biscuit - just kissed by a delicious pat of melting butter - as you took your first savory bite and thought to yourself, "Now, that's some killer honey!" But, I digress. I have a better idea. Why take half measures? If the premise of enhancing the resistance of the honeybee is actually plausible, why don't we take it all the way? Let's consult the entomologists and determine the denizens of the insect realm that manifest the traits that could best augment our beleagured bees.
Just off the top of my head, I can nominate some candidates? How about locusts, cockroaches, fire ants, and Giant Stag Beetles? Locusts certainly have enhanced abilities to proliferate, as witness multiple anecdotal accounts of plagues - numbering billions of the little critters - in Africa as well as the history of the Mormons and in the Bible. Cockroaches have to be the toughest buggers around. Nothing seems to kill them, and it's been said that they might be the only species to survive nuclear holocaust. Nobody - Varroa mites or anyone else - picks on fire ants, not if they want to avoid a burning-like-acid retaliatory bite.
Giant Stag Beetles have so much tough-as-titanium chitin in their protective carapaces, as well as wielding a pair of intimidating mandibles - capable of wielding crushing force with the strength of a Jaws of Life firefighting extrication tool - that they resemble an Abrams M1 tank with special attachments. Just imagine the potential of the new Apis frankensteinis mellifera. Such an exotic mutant might be better suited to James Cameron's movie Avatar, which envisions a multiplicity of lethal alien flora and fauna inhabiting Pandora, a moon of planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri star system.
Maybe the Na'vi could implore Eywa to intervene, and have her persuade the new assassin bees to coordinate in battalion formation and attack, testing their strength against the formidable AMP's (Amplified Mobility Platform) Marine-ensconced robotic security forces that guard The Corporation's facility? Oh darn, I just gave away the plot for Avatar, the Sequel. But just think of the potential of such a genetically modified insect. It would laugh in the face of nosema ceranus and varroa mites, mock cell tower radiation, and shrug off stress with indifference. Perhaps, someday, a swarm of these hybrids could pay a visit to the pesticide manufacturers, pouring down the HVAC ducts of their compounds. And then, with stinging rebuke, they could exact payback, furiously buzzing in bee dialect "Say hello to my little friends."
Part Two of Three