[NAFEX] honeybees and Einstein

road's end farm organic101 at linkny.com
Wed Apr 18 17:24:07 EDT 2007

On Apr 18, 2007, at 2:32 PM, Dylan Ford wrote:

> Rivka - I'm no Andrew Einstein, but I suspect there's something wrong 
> with
> this computer.
> Statements that seem saucy and pertinent when I type them in somehow 
> turn
> snide and imprecise when they get to the list.

This is a common problem with email. "Saucy" is a very difficult thing 
to get across in this medium.

> I had read your whole post,

please do also read all of this one

> and the specific lines I was reacting to were:
> "However, there are lots of plants, including plants which are eaten by
> humans and plants eaten by animals which are then eaten by humans, 
> which are
> not dependent on bees for pollination; and many plants ordinarily 
> pollinated
> by honeybees are also pollinated by other insects, though not always as
> efficiently."
> What I meant to imply by my lame jape was "ask not for whom the bell 
> tolls".
> Whatever is killing the honey bees now will, to my way of thinking be 
> just
> as likely at some point to (if not already) to be killing the other
> pollinators.

Certainly possible; again, that depends on what it is. The domestic 
honeybee is a relatively limited genetic strain, and may be vulnerable 
to problems that other species are resistant to. Also, if the problem 
turns out to be connected to anything about human management of the 
bees, then only domestic bees are going to be affected. But I don't 
think it's known yet whether it's limited to honeybees. Even if it 
isn't, that wouldn't make the claim in the supposed "Einstein" quote 
correct. Many crops are wind pollinated (one example of many is corn), 
self pollinated within the flower (one example is tomatoes), or even 
vegetatively propagated (such as potatoes).

> People keep bees, therefore we notice bee populations crashing
> first, and care more. Who knows what is happening to wild pollinators?

While they're harder to keep track of, a number of people, including 
some posting on this list, do pay attention to them. I agree that a 
problem might be first noticed in a domestic species.
> I must admit the wording of the last sentence of that paragraph 
> bothered me
> most. I have no idea if Einstein ever said anything about bees, but 
> your
> challenge to this prediction credited to him, "We might well lose some
> population; but it's not likely that the disappearance of honeybees 
> would
> wipe out the entire human species." struck me as glib and 
> dispassionate. I
> can accept the fact that you don't believe that loss of the honey bee 
> will
> wipe out the human species, and maybe you're right, but to callously 
> concede
> "We might lose some population..." as if to imply that "losing some
> population" was somehow relatively acceptable, is taking scientific
> objectivity someplace I don't want to go. The actual day-to-day 
> mechanics of
> death by starvation are too awful to objectify, whether it applies to 
> all,
> most, many, some or just the unlucky few.

I most certainly did not mean to imply that "losing some population" 
would be trivial. I'm sorry if it read that way. I included that line 
precisely because I was trying hard to make it clear that I do *not* 
think the matter of loss of honeybees (or indeed of significant 
percentages of any species) is trivial. For the third time: the point I 
am trying to make is that, if you want people to pay serious attention 
to genuine problems, it does not help to make false claims. It hurts. 
Many people will write off your entire argument if one piece of it is 
obviously untrue. Some of them will then refuse to listen to anybody 
else on the subject, since they've already made up their minds. It 
would be better if nobody reacted this way; but it's important to 
remember that a lot of people do so react.

In addition: in order to do something useful about a genuine danger, 
it's necessary, or at least extremely helpful, to find out what is 
actually causing the problem. This is so whether it's caused by one 
factor or a combination of several factors, and whether it's caused by 
something that only is a problem to honeybees or whether it's caused by 
something that's also an actual or potential direct problem to other 
species. But it's not possible to find out the truth about what is 
killing the bees unless some attention is paid to distinguishing truth 
from falsehood.

Finger Lakes NY; zone 5 mostly
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