Silent Spring, Revisited: Bee Dieoff Shows Importance of Watershed Based Commodity Ecology Oversight
"A mysterious illness is killing hundreds of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination. Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment....Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states."
"From different maps, Dead bees on a cake
You’re sweeping the forest, Man, it’s getting late
The milkweed is growing, Through cotton crops;
You borrowed the car, But you didn’t ask
You’ve misunderstood the place where you stand, God Man"
--David Sylvian, "God Man"
Is this a "red state" disease? (Or is it even a disease: see comments.) It would be a shame if it is, since those who are conservative politically are just as environmentally concerned as anyone else.
The massive die-offs of honeybees, the real basis of agriculture instead of human activity, requires a more ecological sound and locally representative basis of agriculture as well as pest management.
This goes for all materials instead of only agriculture. Only when all material input choices and externalities are prioritized and monitored locally in the watershed, based on local variegation of interactive effects more successfully, will we have sustainability. This has been discussed in the Commodity Ecology institutional frameworks, and bees may be an ideal case example to discuss synergistic effects of ecological pollution as well as human interests in a healthy ecology.
This sad news about bee die-offs reminds me how important commodity ecology institutions of state, described below, are going to be (or is that bee).
In the article below, they are calling what is potentially a pesticide or insecticide mass die-off a novel obfuscating term: 'colony collapse disorder'. Is that like calling pesticide pollution a strange unknown "bird dieoff disorder"--without touching on the powerful and deadly pesticide and herbicide industry?
Are they deliberately obfuscating the issue? The verroa mite, which seemed to be the harbinger of this feedback loop die-off, has recently gone immune from a major pesticide treatment. (However, see comments--since bees are hardly showing verroa mite infestation despite hardier mites being now in existence; bees are simply flying away presumably healthy, and unable to find their way back to the hive and/or die away from the hive.)
Pesticide treatment used unsparingly only raises better bugs--immune to pesticide treatment. Pesticides are a "short term solution"--which is an oxymoron when talking of ecological relations. All solutions are long term and iteratively sound or are nothing except destructive. (And Bt addled GM-crops seem to be involved in facilitating this in some way, as one factor.)
Toward this long term solution, would be the commodity ecology framework of jurisdiction for democratic material use in a watershed.
Particularly since weakened bee immune systems are suspect along with massive expansion of the varroa mite right before, it seems like a corporate public relations gesture to attempt to classify bee die-off as a novel isolated 'disorder' instead of simply calling it what it may be: more pesticide immune varroa mites along with weakened bee immune systems from overuse of pesticide treatments? (In the comments, it may have issues to do with electromagnetic 'confusion' in bees as well, that scrambles their ability to re-find the hive once they leave.)
Though it's still up in the air what is going on, this probably has a great deal more to do with predictable synergistic effects of massive ecological pollution and pesticide use, which is in the category of the unknown feedback loops that people like Rachel Carson (Silent Spring), Sandra Steingraber (Living Downstream), or Julia Whitty (on the oceans) have been warning us about for generations: that faulty chemical intensive forms of agriculture that ignore local externalities are innately deadly.
To widen the theme though outside of just concentrating on agriculture or apiary, any material use without some form of local democratic watershed jurisdictional oversight would be dangerous. It is required more than ever to check and balance against current 'regulatory capture' by corrupt state and federal governments. As suggested in Toward a Bioregional State, all materials should be moved to more democratic input in materials choices based on local feedback against externalities--human and otherwise.--to integrate materials and the politics of our consumption in them into ecological relations.
Only then will all commodity relationships be based on ecologically sound frameworks as people gain novel watershed institutions which gives voice to their local concerns and the interrelated issues of human health, ecological health, and economic health that are always there. Such interrelationships are very plain in this bee die-off story:
Feb. 11, 2007, 9:57PM
Thousands of honeybees die of enigmatic illness
"Colony Collapse Disorder" [sic] is taking a toll in 22 states
By GENARO C. ARMAS
Associated Press ...Commercial beekeepers in 22 states have reported deaths of tens of thousands of honeybee colonies. ....
...Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Penn State University and the University of Montana are trying to figure out what is causing it.
...The problem threatens honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and...crops that need bees for pollination.
STATE COLLEGE, PA.— A mysterious illness [sic, or hardly mysterious, perhaps only intentionally mystified] is killing hundreds of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination. Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment....Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some affected commercial beekeepers — who often keep thousands of colonies — have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees.
A colony can have roughly 20,000 bees in the winter, and up to 60,000 in the summer.
"We have seen a lot of things happen in 40 years, but this is the epitome of it all," Dave Hackenberg, of Lewisburg-based Hackenberg Apiaries, said by phone from Fort Meade, Fla., where he was working with his bees.
The country's bee population had already been shocked in recent years by a tiny, parasitic bug called the varroa mite, which has destroyed more than half of some beekeepers' hives and devastated most wild honeybee populations. Along with being producers of honey, commercial bee colonies are important to agriculture as pollinators, along with some birds, bats and other insects. A recent report by the National Research Council noted that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants — including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs and fuel — rely on pollinators for fertilization.
Hackenberg, 58, was first to report...[it]..to bee researchers at Penn State University. He notified them in November when he was down to about 1,000 colonies — after having started the fall with 2,900. "We are going to take bees we got and make more bees ... but it's costly," he said. "We are talking about major bucks. You can only take so many blows so many times."
One beekeeper who traveled with two truckloads of bees to California to help pollinate almond trees found nearly all of his bees dead upon arrival.
Scientists at Penn State, the University of Montana and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are among the growing group of researchers and industry officials trying to solve the puzzle. Diana Cox-Foster, a Penn State entomology professor investigating the problem, said an analysis of dissected bees turned up an alarmingly high number of foreign fungi, bacteria and other organisms and weakened immune systems. Researchers are also looking into the effect pesticides might be having on bees.
Sisyphus and Pesticides: The Varroa Mite
(Varroa Mite infestation)
Are "health department" sprayings and agricultural insecticides and pesticides having a domino effect on bees at last? This is known to be what happened with the pesticide-immune varroa mite, which was precursor to this massive "Colony Collapse Disorder" die-off:
"The parasitic disease caused by varroa mites is called varroatosis. Its treatment has been of limited success. First the bees were medicated with fluvinate which had about 95% mite falls. It was a good product, but the last five percent became resistant to it and later, almost immune."
Thus, the pesticide applications have intentionally bred "better mites"--and very recently.
This massive varroa mite explosion decimated bee populations, then soon after there is a massive bee dieoff (really a "disappearance") which may be related to already immune hampered bee colonies throughout the United States.
With colonies almost suddenly dying out (via dispersal, see comments) in 22 US states right after the varroa mite became pesticide immune we should look for a synergistic solution.
These mites are capable of reproduction on a 10-day cycle, where, in 12 weeks the number of mites in a Western honey bee hive can multiply by 12. So with a particularly hardy varroa mite infestation becoming systemic, I think it shows clearly we have a paradigm difficulty still reaching for the whole "chemical fix" sort term solutions. I suppose honeybee populations will drop down to a lower homeostatic base until mites once more balance themselves out by killing off the bees they feed upon alone.
That the mites came before shows that it may be a human-ecological intermixed tragedy--with origins in the ongoing addictions to expecting short term solutions.
Seemingly from after varroa mite infestation, bees are far worse systemically, for wear and tear?
Regardless, it's bees and human agriculture and human health--versus the wealth generated from the pesticide and insecticide industry. Even though there are many alternatives to such chemical uses in alternative frameworks of agricultural organization or in natural free pesticides more healthful and safe for all species involved, U.S. agriculture has increasingly become an industrially dangerous wasteland for people as well as other species because scale instead of quality has been the driving ideology influencing these material relations. Seems the next scale crop is the varroa mite.
This bee die-off may be more serious than deaths from insecticides, as a combination of parasites and microbes working synergistically. (Or it may be something else, see comments.) So a more synergistic approach to all materials that humans use in ecological situations is required: commodity ecology.
With that said, I would refer you to a previous post for some solution ideas:
COMMODITY ECOLOGY: From mere "End of Pipe" Remediation, to Ecological Engineering for a Sustainable Economic Watershed
This section veers outside the formal institutional discussion toward a proposal of how to make economically sustainable frameworks across each watershed in the world. This is done by going further than the "end of pipe" remediation strategies of both ecological modernization as well as Living Machines, toward democratizing a process by which we choose and use materials locally in the first place. Commodity ecology is the local watershed democratization of commodity choice and their interactions.