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Molly O'Connor

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Where would you place Colony Collapse Disorder in relation to the many other problems facing our society?

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we consume. They pollinate more than 90% of the fruits and vegetables we eat, resulting in a net input of 36 billion dollars annually to the global economy. In the winter of 2006, a strange phenomenon occurred within honeybee populations in the United States. Without any warning, millions of honeybees disappeared from their hives. No bee carcasses were found, and it was observed that only worker bees were disappearing. Worker bees are responsible for collecting pollen, nectar, raising brood, and other essential hive functions. This loss of worker honeybees resulted in unstable honeybee hives, and led to the most serious die-off of honeybee colonies across the country recorded to date. Scientists have dubbed this occurrence Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is still occurring to this day. It is likely that multiple stresses are causing the collapse of honeybee colonies globally. It is widely believed that honeybees are the “canary in the coal mine” for our environment, and that the disappearance of the honeybee is a sign that our global ecosystem is in peril.

Where would you place Colony Collapse Disorder in relation to the many other problems facing our society? What tools, approaches, and collaborations are required to “get the ball rolling” and lay the groundwork for solving this issue?

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    Mar 13 2012: who would we place it anywhere without knowing what does actually cause it? should we speculate wildly?
    • Mar 13 2012: In my opinion, the fact that so much about CCD is shrouded in mystery should serve as even more incentive for figuring out the causes for such a disorder, because it can have devastating impacts on both economic and ecologic processes that we so often take for granted. For example, this graph (http://rs.resalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/02/bees.gif) shows the percentages of various crops that rely on bee pollination services. What would our society do if there was all of a sudden either no almonds, blueberries, or apples? Or what if these kinds of food-items suddenly cost an exorbitant amount of money because instead of having populations of bees pollinate them naturally, we have to waste the time and effort of farmers to manually pollinate each tree by hand?
      If there were more attention surrounding this issue the causes of it could more easily be identified and possibly prevented, and we can continue to have [relatively] cheap almonds!
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        Mar 14 2012: Zane, thank you so much for adding this link. I agree with Krisztian that CCD is something very mysterious, but I feel like your link shows just how important honey bees are to society. The PBS show Nature did a program in 2007 called Silence of the Bees, discussing CCD, and in that they discussed pear trees in China that used to be pollinated by honey bees. Due to the loss of bees in China humans now have to collect pollen, dry it, and then hand pollinate each flower using chicken feathers as a pollen dispersal device. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/silence-of-the-bees/video-full-episode/251/) Overall, I feel that CCD is mysterious, but it's something that needs to be considered before we lose yet another species and it's associated ecosystem service.
      • Mar 15 2012: I agree with you, Zane. CCD should get attention precisely because we don't know the underlying causes of it, especially since it heavily impacts our economy and environment. Since so much life depends on pollination by bees, CCD should become a priority for research funding and public education programs. When we finally do figure out what causes CCD, we can start to solve the problems facing bees. Who knows, a cause of CCD might be something we already know a bit about but don't fully understand.
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      Mar 13 2012: Speculating wildly is surely preferable to not speculating at all, krisztián. It needs to be investigated and if people really have no idea why it's happening then speculation must be the basis for that investigation.
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          Mar 14 2012: The evidence is dead bees. Why are they dead?
      • Mar 15 2012: I agree. Speculation leads to investigation and research.

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