It has been reported lately that more than a third of the entire population of bees in the United States died out this summer of 2009. Christian Science monitor reports, “Suddenly, the bees farmers and growers rely on are vanishing. Researchers are scrambling to find out why”. (Velasquez-Manoff, 1) It has been estimated that the country has lost over 2.4 million beehives. (Laser, 141)
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The first reported news of Colony collapse disorder was on 2006 and up to date 24 States in the US have been affected by CCD. (Velasquez-Manoff, 1)
The situation is serious as bees are the fundamental links of the ecosystem. Without pollination with help of the bees the plants would not be able to bear fruits and that would lead to food shortage in near future. The problem is that the scientists are not sure of the cause on a specific term. The possible causes for the Colony collapse disorder are supposed to be virus, parasites and pesticides.
Initially, it was supposed that the potential cause of CCD was virus infection among bees. IAPV or the Israeli Acute Paralysis virus is a comparatively new disease and it is varroa mite, a pest, which transmits it into the bees. Scientists collected samples of the dead bees and it was found that almost 96% of the dead bees contains varroa mite.
This virus causes chemical imbalance among the bees that makes it impossible for the infected bee to use the sense of direction. Thus, once the bee is out of the hive it would not be possible for it to return to its hive after collecting food. However, the sample of the bees does not show sign of death by starvation. (Freeman, 216) Thus, the virus theory is not able to establish it with conviction.
There is also a theory that the CCD is caused by parasites. It has been found in Europe that the local bees suffer from several parasite related diseases and the most infamous of them is called foulbrood. Bacillus alvei is the cause of it and it cause similar death and collapse of beehives as found in the US. Illegal smuggle of these bees with infection could be a possible cause as they are easy to transport due to their size.
However, till date, there are no evidences of Bacillus alvei infection or foulbrood disease in the US. However, the fact remains that parasite infection of other from may be the possible cause but to confirm it the scientists need to provide evidences. (Houthoofd, 258)
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However, one of the most possible causes could be man-made. This is the overuse of pesticides. In the US, due to urbanization availability of agricultural lands has decreased. To cope up with this problem increasing yield substantially was necessary.
To fulfill this purpose use of fertilizers and pesticides are increasing day by day. Pesticides can be divided into three subgroups namely Insecticides, Fungicides & Herbicides. Insecticides comprise of Chlorine, Phosphorous, Carbonate chemicals such as DDT, Aldrin etc. Herbicides are generally used for controlling growth of weeds. These cause less harm to the environment than insecticides.
Fungicides are mostly used in vegetable farms and orchards. The factors such as soil type, depth of water table, rain fall infiltration and persistence of compound in soil determine the entry of any pesticide in ground water. Some water soluble pesticides get dissolved in ground water and enter into food and effect human and animal health.
Some pesticides contain aromatic compounds which do not get degraded easily after washing fruits and vegetables. These pesticides along with food cause health hazards. Water soluble pesticides cause cancer, birth defects and gene mutation. (Houthoofd, 254-260)
We bring in technology into all spheres of our daily activities. However, technology comes with a price tag on it. Rather than allowing natural fauna and flora to grow wildly, farmers pay millions of dollars for purchasing artificial synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in order to create high productive products.
Nevertheless, it should be remembered that these are fundamentally pesticides and thus harmful for living beings and other animals including bees. (Freeman, 214-219) They are fat-soluble, which makes it complicated to do away with them once they enter the body. The same thing could be happening with the bees.
It is reported in New York Times, “Agriculture Department laboratory in North Carolina this month to screen for 117 chemicals. Particular suspicion falls on a pesticide that France banned out of concern that it may have been decimating bee colonies.” (BARRIONUEVO, 1) However, the culprit is yet to be confirmed.
It could be possible that any one of these factors or all these factors combined are constructing the actual cause of the bee deaths. The problem is that it is yet not possible to find out the actual cause of the loss of bee colonies. The situation is far more difficult because scientists are not able to pinpoint any specific cause of this disaster.
They are indicating towards several possibilities for these mass deaths discussed above. Whatever the cause, it should be made sure that the path of survival of the bees is ensured. Otherwise, there would be severe food shortage in near future.
BARRIONUEVO, ALEXEI. Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons. 2007. New York Times.
Freeman, Hellen. Pollution prevention: The U.S. experience. Environmental Progress, 14.4, (2008), 214-219.
Houthoofd, James. Pollution prevention applications in construction and water resource management. Environmental Progress 14.4, (2008), 254-260.
Laser, Mick. Large-scale production, harvest and logistics. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, 3.2, (2009), 124-141.
Velasquez-Manoff, Moises. “What’s happening to the bees?” 2007. The Christian Science Monitor.