Saturday, May 12, 2007,12:06 AM
Grow Apple Trees and Honey Bees
I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow-white turtle doves


Sorry for the 70's flashback there. Emma's favorite toy of the moment is a music box that plays that song (it was mine when I was a baby). Anyway she is very insistent on "mommy sing" and so after singing "I'd like to teach the world to sing" for the bazillionth time this afternoon, the current irony of those lyrics struck me.

Grow apple trees and honey bees. Well it is highly likely that the way we have been growing our apple trees (and other crops) is killing off the honey bees. I've been following the headlines recently about the Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bee hives around the world. Since last fall about a quarter of the bee hives have just disappeared (in some areas up to 90%). The bees are rejecting the hives and dying away from home. And this is serious to our agriculture. The pollination by bees is a 15 billion dollar industry. Most of the most nutritious and healthy superfoods we eat are dependent on bee pollination. Besides producing honey, commercial beehives are used to pollinate a third of the country's agricultural crops, including apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries, strawberries and pumpkins. Ninety percent of California's almond crop is dependent on bees, and a loss of commercial hives could be devastating.

No one is really quite for sure as to what is causing this sudden drop in bees. It is far worse than any past decline and is different than disease or parasites that have hurt bees before. There of course has been speculation as to the cause.

Some speculate about pesticides and genetically modifies crops (crops that have pesticides built into their make-up - yummy). The bees are leaving the hives to die and predators that would normally scavenge empty hives are leaving them alone. This implies the presence of a chemical(s) that the other insects and animals are instinctively smart enough not to touch. Certain new nicotine based pesticides (yummy again) prevent the bees from forming and keeping memories. So they go out and feed on this stuff (which was originally meant to treat seeds but is now being SPRAYED on crops) and can’t remember how to get home. And it also causes their immune systems to collapse, causing what would be normal organisms to become pathogenic to the bees. Others wonder about the cumulative affects of pesticides. While each individual pesticide might get labeled as "safe and acceptable" there is little research being done on the cumulative harm. One pesticide by itself might not destroy honey bees. But what happens when farmers spray herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and rodenticides on land that also has genetically modified crops with pesticides built-in? (wow this is really making me feel great about the food I eat...)

Others speculate that this problem is caused by a fungus or parasite or just a strange combination of unsustainable farming practices with some new disease. And then there are those who blame cell phones The issue is currently being investigated by the US House Agriculture Committee.

So to throw in the quote that everyone has been quoting - Albert Einstein speculated that "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left." Dire commercial ruin for bee keepers. Devastated crops. Food shortages and price hikes. All because our worship at the alter of the almighty dollar doesn't permit sustainable food practices?

Maybe there's something to that growing apple trees and honey bees in perfect harmony idea...

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