Bees on a fast-food diet

In his best selling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan argues that too much of our food is raised as a single crop in vast fields, and that above all, corn constitutes way too much of our diet.  He says these concentrations by big agri-businesses are undermining our health, the welfare of our animals, and depleting our soil.

Now it looks as if it’s also one of the causes of bee colony collapse.  Bees, like people, need a diversified diet to be able to fight off disease.  We need the bees to pollinate the plants that produce the food we eat, so the world-wide collapse of bee colonies is a serious global worry.

That’s the bad news.  But the good news is that the bees’ demise is not being caused – as many feared – by global warming, by genetically-modified crops, or even by pesticides.  It’s being caused by the bees’ vulnerability to several virus strains that are attacking their colonies.  And a diversified diet for the bees greatly increases their ability to fight it off.

Some beekeepers have resorted to giving supplements to their colonies – much as many of us take vitamin supplements to augment the nutrition in our daily food intake.  It helps.  But it’s expensive.

It would get to the heart of the problem if instead crops were more diversified in the first place, so that bees did not have to subsist on the bee-equivalent of fast food.

http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=548064&story_id=13226733

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About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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