Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Favorite Song of the Day: Can't Find My Way Back Home

There's been a lot of news coverage recently about the mysterious disappearance of honey bees in the US. Scientists have labeled the phenomenon "Colony Collapse Disorder," but they're still not quite sure what's causing CCD.

No matter what's behind it, CCD threatens both our environment and our food supply, as the fruits and vegetables we consume depend on the pollination performed by bees.

Here's a smattering of headlines from local papers across the country:
I don't know if there's any connection, but Zephyr at the Climate of Our Future blog pointed me to an article that describes a similar die off of bumblebees in Britain. There the decimation is caused by eco-unfriendly farming practices and it too threatens to have devastating social, economic, and environmental consequences (see Bumblebees could face extinction from BBC News).

Back stateside, the June Wired includes a story about a University of Montana entomologist who is trying to discover clues to CCD by listening in to the sonic quality of bees' buzzing. It mentions that scientists posit one possible culprit is a build up of pesticides in the hives, contaminating the bees and messing up their navigational systems.

Here is an excerpt, and a link to the full text:
Can a Tiny Microphone Save the Bees — and the Food Supply?
By Greta Lorge

Colony collapse disorder looks even more ominous. The alarm was first sounded late last year, when entire colonies started disappearing, practically overnight. There were no signs of attack on the hives, no dead bees, and very few clues. Soon, Bromenshenk and other experts were fielding phone calls from befuddled beekeepers across the country. Some had lost up to 90 percent of their bees.

Researchers have begun looking at several possible explanations: a newly evolved parasite or virus, poor nutrition, or stress-induced immune suppression. Chemicals could also be to blame. Neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of agricultural pesticides, are known to cause disorientation in insects. Their long-term effects on bees are unknown, but they could build up in the hive and, over time, reach concentrations that might impair bees' navigational abilities. The bees may leave the hive to forage and simply be unable to find their way back.

Read full article
The last sentence conjures a sad image ... worker bees flying around endlessly and aimlessly in orchards and farms, desparately trying to find their way back home. It brought to my loosely associative mind the old Blind Faith song sung by Steve Winwood: Can't Find My Way Home. I can just imagine it playing to a video of lost honey bees hopping from flower to flower, hoping to find their hive just past the next one.

Can't Find My Way Home by Steve Winwood

Come down off your throne
and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.
You are the reason
I've been waiting so long.
Somebody holds the key.

But I'm near the end and
I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and
I can't find my way home.

Come down on your own
and leave your body alone.
Somebody must change.
You are the reason
I've been waiting all these years.
Somebody holds the key.

But I can't find my way home.
But I can't find my way home.
But I can't find my way home.
But I can't find my way home.
Still I can't find my way home,
And I ain't done nothing wrong,
But I can't find my way home.


Anonymous said...

You have masterfully shown with the stroke of your pen the dire condition of our honey bees. Thank-you for taking me the reader into the world of the honey bee. This is so very sad. Pesticides, what I had always feared would happen to the honey bee.
I can only hope we find a way to help them.

Francis Scudellari said...

It's amazing to think about how important honey bees are to the ecosystem. A lot depends on them, so I hope we can figure it out too.