Bees are dying all over the world, and according to Laurence Packer, professor of biology at York University in Toronto, bees are more prone to extinction than almost any other organism because of the genetic load that results from their sex determining mechanism.
In his new book, Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them, Packer delves into his many years of research observing bees under the microscope and out in the field, and he concludes that we should reduce our reliance on honeybees, which are specific to the genus Apis.
As he explains on NPR’s Fresh Air, there are more than 20,000 species of wild bees. But we are beholden to the honeybee.
As other research has shown, pesticide use in industrial agriculture is the root of Colony Collapse Disorder, a condition that has, over the past seven years, caused a continual, wholesale die off honeybees across the United States. According to Packer, though all bees are dying, not all bees are dying equally, and the practices of modern beekeepers are putting the European honeybee at greater risk of extinction than their wild cousins.
Listen to the full interview.
Is Modern Bee Keeping Why Bees are Dying?
Says Packer, “In late March … something like 96 percent of the honeybee colonies in the U.S. are in California for almond pollination.” Then, the bees are transported for blueberry pollination, as the agricultural cycle continues. With this regimented approach to crop yields, and no dependence on feral bees, we not only need honeybees to pollinate a long list of fruits and vegetables that includes zucchini, squash, watermelon, and berries; we also need these bees to be managed and shipped.
It’s an unwise proposition that has all but usurped nature’s role. And if Packer’s hypothesis is correct – if bees are genetically more prone to extinction – our bee-for-hire system, along with the use of systemic pesticides, is hastening their exit – is, indeed, at the heart of why bees are dying from Colony Collapse Disorder in the first place.
Meanwhile, you can do your part to forestall an extinction even by reducing pesticide use. Two easy ways everyone can do so are by buying organic produce and by cutting out lawn- and garden-pesticide sprays.
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.
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