"Honeybee collapse has much to teach us about how humans can avoid a similar fate."


Thu, Jul 17th, 2014 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

On the New York Times' opinion page, Mark Winston looks at the collapse of the honeybee. Aside from the catastrophic effects that this is causing, Mark wonders if the way the collapse is happening -- a "death by a thousand cuts" -- will teach humanity how to avoid our own extinction.

Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts. The main elements include the compounding impact of pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites; fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields that lack diverse flowering plants; and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself, which disrupts colonies by moving most bees around the country multiple times each year to pollinate crops.

The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interactions among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more. A typical honeybee colony contains residue from more than 120 pesticides. Alone, each represents a benign dose. But together they form a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases.



You may also be interested in:

New York City to declare state of emergency due to swine flu outbreak
Measuring Your Age in DNA Methylation, Not Candles
"Correct a single error out of the three billion 'letters' of our genetic code."
IBM's Watson Saves the Life of Patient by Correctly Indentifying Her Disease
"People can pay $8,000 to have their veins pumped with blood plasma from teenagers."