TED Conversations

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: I would place it below Climate change, but above the conservation of any other species, which means that it is very high. Bees effect so many other species that by saving them, we could feasibly be saving quite a few other species. Seeing as how it is caused by the culmination of many problems, it would make sense that it is very hard to fix, so why not instead have a captive breeding colony that will produce many queens, so that the queens can be entered into the current failing populations. This would just be a temporary fix, until the harder problems are fixed, such as pesticides, parasites, malnutrition, and climate change(which may never be fixed). It would be a way of adding time to the clock, though I don't know how to fix the actual problem.
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      Mar 14 2012: I agree that climate change should be one of our top priorities because it is affecting a lot of things and species downstream. In addition, I think the scary thing about CCD is that we don't know what's causing it and therefore we don't know how to fix it. It's stressful to think that by the time we commit enough money and research to finding out what is actually wrong, it could be too late.
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        Mar 15 2012: Well, a few people should take it upon themselves to fund research endeavors to fix the problem, but therein lies the problem. no one is funding this. Therefore, maybe they will just die off. As was said in your presentation, mason bees are a viable substitute, so could we just implement the use of them? If bees aren't protected, are they a possible replacement?
        • Mar 15 2012: I think the underlying issue is our current treatment of our bees. They are no longer a population of organisms in the eyes of the commercial world. They are a tool that we use like we do machines in a factory, and we are finally seeing that in doing so we are degrading them to non-functionality. We need to shift our focus from finding cures to their diseases so that they can continue to be used as pollinating machines for our general populous, and start treating them like necessary facets to the complex web of life.

          I do not mean to personify the honey bee, but I do believe that they have some capacity to understand a bummer situation when they experience it. Commercial bees are trucked and flown around the world at breakneck pace, they are not given adequate rest between pollination cycles, and they are fed high fructose corn syrup while they travel. That is like making a professional athlete practice around the clock without rest on a diet of potato chips and soda. It just isn't going to work out. If we are to resolve this issue, we need to start thinking of the kind of life a healthy bee is accustomed to, rather than trying to patch a miserable existence with futile injections and sprays.
    • Mar 15 2012: Yes, this is a very serious issue because of the potential ramifications it could have on our agriculture and food production. We cannot wait for an agricultural crisis before we take action. I do see the potential for human pollination, and I understand that this would create a large number of jobs, but the disappearance of bees would set off a number of other adverse effects that we cannot account for. For a business to be a sustainable, that business would only be interested in pollinating plants and crops that are needed for food production. I can't see how it would be fiscally responsible for a business to pay pollinators to pollinate plants that do not affect us. However the loss of these other plants would still have far reaching effects on the ecosystem, since many other species probably interact with them and depend on them for survival.

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