There appears to have been a number surprising collapse of bee populations. These collapses are important because bees are key providers of pollination ecosystem services, which are important for agriculture. However, most of the suspected causes of this decline are due to agricultural practices. The Agricultural biodiversity weblog has been following this issue and have written a number of posts on the issue which they review in a recent post on the possible impact of GMO Bt Corn on bees:
… We pointed to a piece that said maybe the problems in the US weren’t any worse than they had been, just better reported. Maybe the problem is monoculture? Throughout the recent buzz of hive-related news, though, we’ve ignored a few items that laid the blame on GMO crops. Why? Because they seemed a bit shrill, maybe even a tad one-sided. But a long and apparently comprehensive piece in the German news magazine Der Spiegel is neither shrill nor one-sided. And it seems to adduce good evidence that bees who are suffering a parasite infestation are abnormally susceptible to pollen from maize engineered to express the Bt bacterial toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis.
The work Der Spiegel reports is a long way from conclusive. But it does give pause for thought, and it is causing huge excitement among opponents of GM in all its forms. At the very least, it deserves a closer look. But wouldn’t it be weird if it proved true? And how would industrial agriculture respond?
3 thoughts on “More on bee declines”
Aren’t honeybees themselves a kind of monoculture? North America has native bee species. They may not have been domesticated for honey production, but they certainly can serve as pollinators.
The Spiegel article points out that in Germany very little BT-corn is being grown (effectively none) whereas in the U.S. it is nearly all the corn being grown. They are also losing bees in Germany. That suggests that the culprit is not BT-corn.
I think most entomologists think the causes of the bee die off are fungal diseases and imported mites from Asia.