The inner workings of bee culture are fascinating. From the way these little busy bodies work around the clock to their limbo lingo form of communicative dance. But did you know bees are an integral part of our livelihoods? Their cross pollination process is one of the main ways plants reproduce and diversify. And plants of course, are important for almost every reason in the book, from food to soil and water sustainability. Without them, living or even surviving would be a struggle.
Whether this is an intro to bee-cology for you or you’re a long time bee enthusiast, it may be time to brush up or fill your kids in on the fact that bees are rapidly disappearing.
When a bee on a scouting mission finds a source of pollen, it flies back to the hive to let the other workers know where to go. The scout performs a complex dance that explains the direction and distance of the pollen in relation to the hive. The individual workers stock up enough honey to fuel themselves for the journey there and back, and set off to collect the pollen. The fruit of their labour is then used to make more honey.
Of course, the success their mission depends on remembering where it is they’re headed, and bringing enough food to keep them going for the round trip. The scout’s choreography is extremely accurate, but the presence of genetically modified crops’ pollen is making this dancing duty difficult. This is lethal for the workers, and leads to Colony Collapse Disorder. The hive loses the workforce it needs to sustain itself.
Most genetically modified crops are designed to host Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which is a natural insecticide used to fight crop-destroying bugs. Bees are not harmful to crops, in fact they are important players in the reproductive process of plants. However, Bt from the pollen of genetically modified crops is ending up in the bees’ food supply. While it won’t kill a bee directly, it elicits an immune response in the bee that consumes protein. The bees need this protein to form memories and learn effectively. Without them, the workers can’t judge how much honey to stock on their pollen runs, much less remember the instructions of the scout. Lost and starved, the worker bees die. Honey supplies diminish, and the hive falls into decline.
A sad but very true set of circumstances. Fortunately, knowledge is one of greatest tools to spark change. Letting your family and friends in on the many ways we can reduce our carbon footprint can help us all, even the littlest creatures.