For the last couple of years, beekeepers around the globe have been sounding the alarm.  The reason for it: entire bee swarms have been vanishing for no apparent reason. One day they were there, the other day they suddenly weren’t. Some beekeepers lost over half their population of bees.

In case you’re wondering why this might interest you: the bees’ disappearance can have quite an impact on our lives. Their primary activities involve producing honey and beeswax, but another important occupation is transferring pollen from one plant to another. They pollinate each flower they land on. It’s very important, because this way the plant can bear more and better fruits. Bees are even that important that certain plants depend entirely on the bees’ pollination, like cucumbers, strawberries and paprika. Cultivators of those plants pay beekeepers to release their bees in their glass houses and orchards.

The Cause Is Unknown

Nature has given bees preferences to a certain plant: they tend to always return to the same kind of flower or plant. This way the pollination mostly happens between plants of the same kind. This way, bees are very important in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. It’s doubtful we’d even be able to cultivate many plants without bees. Enough reasons to think about the reason many bees are vanishing.

It’s not clear yet what causes these disappearances, but the phenomenon has a name: Colony Collapse Disorder. A reason people have come up with to explain this is that the bees simply don’t have enough to feed on. And this could be caused by the increasing urbanization. Other say bees suffer from the effects of pesticides. Or the bees are dying en masse because of diseases.

American researchers think this last reason could be the closest to reality. The cause would be the Varroa destructor. The destructor is a tiny parasitic mite that prospers on insects. These mites are infected with viruses, which in turn they transfer to the larvae of the bees. The viruses cause the bees to have malformed wings or cause paralysis of the muscles they use to fly. But more catastrophic: the bees become disoriented. Once they’ve flown away from the beehive, they have difficulties finding their way back.

It’s not a local problem. Bees in America, Great Britain and Germany suffer from it. Researchers in Europe think cell phones and their radiation causes the disorientation[1]. The bees couldn’t find their way back to the hive, as soon as there were cell phones near them. Apparently, the “biological radar” of the insects can’t take the cell phone radiation. Once the bees get lost, they can’t provide for themselves anymore. The swarm also loses workers that carry the nectar and food to the hive, so it weakens as well. This last theory sounds plausible, since over the last decade cell sites have become increasingly present.

During winter time, 10 to 15% of the bees die. It’s normal and meant to be, so beekeepers sometimes find large amounts of dead bees in their hives after winter. But over the last years, this amount of dead bees has been doubled. It’s a big problem, since the solution or explanation probably won’t be readily available in the first years. Bees are a very important link in our ecosystem, so a decline in the number of bees could have far-reaching consequences.

By coremelter on