We have all heard the stories of the “vanishing Honeybee” I am sure. If you haven't, it seems that Honeybees are disappearing all over the place with no corpses left behind and little understanding of exactly why this is happening at this time. There are theories ranging from “global warming” to “disease within the bee community” to “media manipulation of a non-story.” The simple truth is that no one really knows for certain where the bees are going or why.
Last week, Alan Boyle, who is the Science Editor for MSNBC, wrote a column further discussing the virus theory and the story rose many questions in my mind as I read it. They were not problems with his reporting at all., but rather just questions I have had and that the media has yet to address, so I emailed him with the questions.
This email was sent last week and quickly forgotten by me. I tend to question so many stories on a daily basis that I cannot keep track of them all. I figured that he would email me with a response if my questions were valid and would ignore them if they were not. Today I saw this:
If there are no dead bees being found, then how can we say for certain they are dying? Can the Africanized honey bees and their migration into the United States be a contributing factor if not a cause? Do we know if regular honeybees migrate and, if so, do we know anything about the patterns or timing? How long exactly have we been keeping track of bee movements? If it is less than, say, 200 years, can we really rule out that this is just a pre-existing pattern? - Brad Schader
"They're not finding the dead bees in high numbers, which actually is a good indicator of what's going on," Evans said. If, for instance, pesticides were the primary factor behind the flight of the honeybee, scientists would expect to find bunches of dead bees lying around the hive. Instead, it looks as if the individual bees just fly off and die.
"Do they simply peter out and lose energy? Or do they actually get disoriented? Both of those have been tied to diseases in the past," Evans said.
Bee turnover rates are typically high during the summer foraging season, Evans acknowledged. "In the summer, a 20,000-bee colony will completely turn over in about 30 days," he said.
Penn State entomologist Diana Cox-Foster, the lead author for the Science study, provided some additional perspective in an e-mail. If statistics scare you, feel free to skip over these paragraphs:
There is more, but I don't want to bore you with science. Click the link for the full answer to my question.
I must thank Alan Boyle for answering it so thoroughly. My questions are validated, answered, and it went far beyond what I expected. I am also flattered that he used my letter as a part of his recent column. This is the “back patting” part of my post by the way.
Lesson to the lemmings- write journalists about stories you read. They may respond. I think they are like us, only without the comment section.