Sunday, April 15, 2007

bee's die and crisis looms for american agriculture

There is a potential crisis looming that will affect all farmers -green and otherwise- and ultimately food availability and prices. Populations of N. American wild and domestic bees have been plummeting and no one is quite sure why. While this might please people who don't like bugs or are allergic to bee stings, it's really bad news for farmers and consumers. Bees are required to pollinate most crops of flowering plants. And simply put, no pollination means no fruits to sell and eat and no seeds for subsequent planting.

I've been aware of this for quite some time but it was recently brought to my attention again during a broadcast by Marty Moss-Coane's radio show on my local NPR member station WHYY (Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane on 91FM Philadelphia).

Marty interviewed entomologists Maryann Frazier (Penn State) and Neal Williams (Bryn Mawr College) who cited an uptick in populations of parasites as a potential cause of the high bee mortality rate but could not exclude other causes.

Now it looks like cell phones and other devices that emit radio waves might be a factor. Suffice it to say that I'm amazed. Read this and you'll freak Are mobile phones wiping out our bees? - Independent Online Edition > Wildlife

You can listen to Marty's broadcast here (Click 4/5/07: Hour 2)


Maya said...

Hey Bob, I'm stunned by this! Many people aren't aware that, along with much-maligned bats, bees pollinate not just flowers but our crops as well.

I'm sure I will hear more about the problem when I begin grad school for conservation biology in the fall.

Between that and potential brain problems, I think its time to demand a radiation reduction from cell phone towers.

Sorcha said...

Wow, that's really scary. I rarely use my mobile, but whoa. We've been aware of the bee dieoff here in Oregon for a number of years, and I'd thought it was parasites behind it. Yikes.

Maya said...

I have two questions: do other animals have the same navigation systems? That would mean that cells affect other animals as well.

Also, do cells cause this problem if they are turned off? I assume the towers still emit radiation, but how much?

Is there a simple solution, like turning off the cell when not in use?

The amusing thing is that many cell phones have cute nicknames like "The Queen Bee" as a selling point. Ironic.

By the way I think we should also look into a solution for the parasite problem, if it can be solved. If we focus on cell phones too much all the bees and crops could be screwed while we ignore other causes. I confess I don't know enough about it.

Tags said...

Hi Bob,

Have you seen this discussion on Makes you think.

veron said...

I am getting alarmed by this. What have we done to mess up mother nature? I am kinda dependent on my cell phone but I am willing to give it up if it is the cause of the problem.