The Plight of the Honey Bee
They are a marvel of architectural design and one of nature’s most heroic creatures. The honey bee is an incredible insect with a work ethic beyond anything humans could ever endeavor to mimic. The honey bee works day and night without tiring, each assigned to a specific task.
There are three groups bees can be categorized into: workers, queens and drones. The worker bees are the only bees people ever see. They gather food from the outside world, build and clean the hive and work to protect it. The drone’s only job is to fertilize the queen and in the fall, when the hive is at its bursting point, they are ejected from their home, sent to live in the wild elements where they eventually die. Honey bees are social creatures that co-operate well within the confines of their narrow existence. They have a job to do and they do it well.
The worker bees must gather food for the queen and the drones. They do so by collecting pollen and nectar from flowering plants, thus beginning the production of new seeds. This process is called pollination and the honey bee is the biggest contributor. Without pollination, many crops of fruits, vegetables and nuts would die. It is estimated that one third of the world’s food source depends on honey bees to pollinate them.
In 2006, there was a sudden collapse in honeybee colonies. This decline in bees was so drastic that scientists coined the event “Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD. Throughout history bee colonies have experienced sudden and unexplainable collapses, but none so wide spread and epic as in recent years. Why is this happening? Many scientists have speculated that there is no one particular cause for the decline in the bee population, rather it is several factors put together. Some believe the pesticides farmers use on crops is to blame. Others feel it the radiation from cell phones causing poor navigation for the bees. Global warming has been cited as a possible reason as well. The real answer is that no one knows why the bees are disappearing, but everyone agrees on one sobering fact – if the problem continues to persist, the world has a very big problem.
Humans have been exploiting the actions of the honey bee for centuries, capturing and manipulating their surroundings to acquire the much sought after honey and wax the bees so guilelessly create. It was not until the 1600’s that North America was introduced to this ambitious worker. European settlers brought their precious bee hives to ensure a certain quality of life laced with the natural sweetness of honey, and today it is unfathomable to imagine a life without the bees and their effects.
Fabricated bee colonies are cropping up everywhere in a global effort to repopulate the bees. So far this has met with success, but perhaps this phenomenon should be a warning to all of us. Rather than try to only fix the problem, we might just want to ask what the bees are trying to tell us. If there is a lesson to be learned from their disappearance it would be wise to understand it.