Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Discovery News and PhysOrg on colony collapse disorder

Yesterday, I began my lecture on economics and the environment.  One of the main topics was natural capital, including the ecosystem services nature provides.  One of these is pollination, or at least, it used to be.  During the past decade, growers have had to pay more and more for beehive rentals to the point where beekeepers have been earning more from rentals than from honey.  This means that what used to be a beneficial externality is now an internalized cost.  This is one of the factors making the prices of food that requires bee pollination go up.

This topic led to a lively discussion and a lot of questions.  Fortunately, I had answers to nearly all of them.  However, it would have been really useful to have shown my class this video, which came out the day before.  It had the answers to all of them.

Why All The Bees Are Dying

Bee population around the world have collapsed. Now scientists are scrambling to find out why. Anthony has a list of the possible causes, and the threat this poses to food supplies worldwide.
I had seen the preview of this the night before last and was thinking of adding the link to it in the Powerpoint for the lecture, but ran out of time that morning because of other duties.  Too bad, it would have been really helpful.  Maybe I'll show it to the class tomorrow.

Also, I just happen to have article about one of the factors hypothesized to be contributing to colony collapse disorder, feeding high-fructose corn syrup to bees.

PhysOrg: Researchers find high-fructose corn syrup may be tied to worldwide collapse of bee colonies
by Bob Yirka
Apr 30, 2013
A team of entomologists from the University of Illinois has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world. The team outlines their research and findings in a paper they've had published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Since approximately 2006, groups that manage commercial honeybee colonies have been reporting what has become known as colony collapse disorder—whole colonies of bees simply died, of no apparent cause. As time has passed, the disorder has been reported at sites all across the world, even as scientists have been racing to find the cause, and a possible cure. To date, most evidence has implicated pesticides used to kill other insects such as mites. In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence to suggest the real culprit might be high-fructose corn syrup, which beekeepers have been feeding bees as their natural staple, honey, has been taken away from them.
I'll remind students about how HFCS may be unhealthy for bees when I show "Food, Inc."  If it's not good for bees, why would it be good for people?

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