[permaculture] Colony Collapse Disorder, By D’Coda

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lfl at intrex.net
Mon Apr 30 15:20:43 EDT 2007

Colony Collapse Disorder, By D’Coda
www.ozarkseedexchange.com <http://www.ozarkseedexchange.com>
www.volcommunity.org <http://www.volcommunity.org>

"When the bees go, four years later, man goes" -- Albert Einstein

By now, most of us have learned about the disappearance of honey bees.
Honey bees pollinate about $16 billion worth of food in the U.S. each
year.Commercial bee keepers make the majority of their income, not from
honey, but from pollenation services. Hives are transported across the
country, following bloom times for orchards and such crops as alfalfa,
pumpkins, soybeans, blueberry and cranberry. For example, this time of
year (March) 80% of Pennsylvania's hives are in California. The
apiarists are confident they can meet pollination needs this year as
they are accustomed to helping each other out and they are importing
bees from Australia. Continued colony collapse of this magnitude could
begin to threaten the food supply after this year.

What's causing it? Scientists were fortunate to be on site just as hives
in Florida began to collapse. The fact that no dead bees have been found
complicates analysis. Still-living bees and comb were taken from hives
under collapse in Florida and are now under study. Last year, the bee
genome was completed, making it easier to diagnose the malady. At this
time, its believed that the bee's immune system has deteriorated.
Genetically modified crops have not been ruled out as a cause, but so
far, the symptoms are not consistent with that kind of poisoning. Also,
this kind of colony collapse happened once before, in 1896, on a much
smaller scale involving only 2
states. Proposed theories range from microwaves emitted from cell phone
towers, to inadvertant release of some new chemical(s), to chemtrails,
to use of scalar weapons in weather modification. Scientists are leaning
towards the chemical theory.

Two important questions have not been raised. Why are hives of honey
bees transported around the country for pollination? What is the status
of the
3,500 different kinds of pollen bees (Osmia) in this country? Are they
also affected?

According the the agriculture department, 1 out of every 3 bites of food
is the direct result of honey bee pollination. That includes the beef
cattle fed on alfalfa. When peak oil threatens to put a crimp in fuel
costs and availability, does it make sense to rely on large scale
transportation of hives to produce our food? At a time when travel could
be restricted altogether by such nasties as quaranteen for epidemics
like bird flu, are we looking at yet one more example of how big
agribusiness makes our food supply vulnerable?

Honey bees are not necessary for pollination of our crops. There are
seven different kinds of honey bee (apis). They live in colonies and are
periodically by mites and disease. There are 20,000 different kinds of
pollen bees, or wild bees (Osmia), world wide. For the most part they
are solitary, and they are not affected by mites and disease. They are
also more effective than honey bees at pollinating the very same crops.
They can  be domesticated for use in agriculture and are easy to manage
on site at orchards and farms. The U.S. has 3,500 varieties of pollen bees.

The best pollinator of apples, for example,  is not the honey bee
(Apis), but rather, the hornfaced bee  (Osmia cornifrons) from Japan.
They replace
honey bees as orchard pollinators because they are so efficient and easy
to keep. It only takes 300-400 female hornfaced bees per acre of
orchard. . The
hornfacedbee has been used for 60 years in Japanese apple orchards and
was brought into the states for the same purpose in the 1980s.

Hornfaced bees are related to the North American mason bee or blue
orchard bee, (Osmia lignoria). Our native mason bees are also superior
to honey bees
in the orchard. The single pollen bee pollinates 80 times as many
flowers as does the single honey bee. Each kind of  pollen bee prefers
different kinds of flowers and among them, virtually all of our food can
be pollinated. Since the 1990's wild bee keepers in this country have
established protocols for keeping these bees on site. The bees are kept
in storage and released for bloom season. They also provide bees and
education to those who want their services. Though its a bit more work,
the cost savings are substantial and the assurance that food supplies
(other than honey) are not affected by colony collapse makes this a
solution worth investigation.

Granted, use of pollen bees is easier on the traditional small farm than
on large scale agribusiness holdings. - the loss of honey bees may turn
the tide back towards small farms where pollen bees take care of business.

For further information contact me at dcoda at volcommunity.org
<mailto:dcoda at volcommunity.org>

More information about the permaculture mailing list