Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bees on their Knees

It appears that Brentford FC are not the only 'bees' to have had a poor season. Beekeepers across the US and increasingly across the globe are baffled by the sudden disappearance of millions of honeybees. And although it has had a fair amount of media coverage, it threatens to become the story of 2007.

Einstein is alleged to have said, "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." And although the pesky things have ruined many a barbeque, we perhaps ought to be more forgiving as they do pollinate vast swathes of our food supplies.

Theories that help to explain the phenomenon (known as 'Colony Collapse Disorder') abound, from the effects of mobile phone usage, to the use of pesticides and even to stress caused by being shlepped from orchard to orchard as their numbers dwindle. Until the reason is pinpointed (and of course it may be caused by a confluence of factors), then it's more ammunition for those more enlightened types who warned us that unfettered economic growth would kill us all in the end. If the global warming hasn't drowned us yet, the bees will starve us it seems.

Bee populations are always volatile (albeit not to this degree), but the simple equation is 'no bees = no food'. Other than perhaps putting Charlton's relegation problem in perspective, can anything actually be done? Finding the cause would be a reasonable start, and Presidential favourite Hilary Clinton has joined a bipartisan group asking the US Department of Agriculture to address the problem. At least if it turns out to be mobile phones, we'll no longer get agitated by the person at the next table barking into his Bluetooth headset, because there won't be any restaurants.

As a born worrier, I generally don't have difficulties dreaming up anarchic scenarios; a review of the chaotic scenes after Hurricane Katrina for example always help me in this regard. But assuming the problem doesn't just go away, and in the hope that its effects are only realised gradually, it is thus likely to become apparent through (more) inflation; the markets are good like that. Thus in the UK, governor Mervyn King will get to hone his letter-writing skills more often, and as interest rates rocket through 6%, perhaps we'll get to the bottom of the case of the disappearing bees.


At 8:27 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

As it so happens, one of my colleagues does research on bees, but it is very difficult to get funding as government has cut back and the commercial interests involved are too weak.


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