The disappearance of bees has gained widespread media attention over the past few years, and there have been a lot of theories as to the mysterious cause of their collapse. In the beginning, there was speculation that it was caused by some sort of virus or bacteria, and then there were theories that cell phone towers might be causing the bees to die.
I watched the documentary “The Vanishing of Bees” last week, and the beekepers in it offer a compelling explanation: the recent introduction of systemic pesticides on crops. Pesticides have always killed bess, but in the past the pesticides were of the topical variety; beekeepers could simply keep their bees away while the crops were being sprayed and once the air cleared they could let the bees loose to pollinate the crops. (They talk more in the documentary about the big business of using bees for pollination of large farms.)
But the new systemic pesticides are applied to the leaf or seed of the plant, and actually become part of its vascular system — and thus its pollen and fruit and everything else — so the bees can’t avoid ingesting them. These systemic pesticides seem to compromise the immune systems of bees, making them susceptible to all sorts of diseases.
Interestingly (but not surprisingly?) organic farms and beekeepers don’t seem to be experiencing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
This all got me thinking about the bigger picture of choosing organic products. I think often organics are only valued only for their immediate benefit to the consumer (not containing pesticides) and are often portrayed in the mainstream media as luxury items. But there is clearly a much bigger picture to choosing organic, and much bigger implications.
The Vanishing of the Bees is a watch now on Netflix. Here’s the trailer: