Something’s wrong with our honeybees. Millions of them have disappeared. They’ve left their hives and vanished into thin air. One by one they’ve gone out to look for nectar and pollen and never returned. No one’s found their bodies. They’ve left behind no clues to their disappearance.
Some honeybees disappear every year, but this is different. This is millions of bees dying outside of their hives. This is so many bees disappearing from each hive that the hives cannot survive. Since 2006, almost one-half of all honeybees in the United States have disappeared. Millions of colonies have been lost.
This is what scientists now call Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This is the great honeybee mystery.
You know honeybees, don‘t you? They’re the fuzzy,
buzzy yellow-and-black fliers. They live in hives, feed
on flowers, and make honey.
But that’s not nearly all they do. Did you know that
- they “talk” by dancing?
- they feed their young special baby food?
There are way too many neat things about bees to print on these pages. Here are three very good websites to visit.
- www.honey.com/consumers/kids/beefacts.asp: all about bees and honey.
- www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/alienempire/multimedia/hive.html. Very cool, but read this carefully. THINK, then see the “Point to Ponder” box on the right.
- www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bees/dances.html. Go into a hive, fly like a bee, watch bees dance!
Point to Ponder
The second website we mentioned in the article on the left says that plants evolve to attract bees. Can plants change themselves? Who changes them? Do you completely understand bee dances, bee food, bee flight? Do you think anybody does? Could these things ever have happened on their own, without a Creator?
Honeybees eat pollen and nectar from flowers. As they feed, their bodies pick up pollen and spread it from flower to flower. This is called pollination. Plants need this to make fruits and seeds.
Nearly one-third of the food we eat comes from plants, which need insects—usually bees—for pollination. Apples, blackberries and blueberries, pears and pumpkins, cherries and cucumbers, watermelon, and many, many more kinds of plants need bees.
People cannot pollinate plants. We can’t make machines to pollinate plants. Only insects—usually bees—can do this delicate work.
The next time you eat, thank God for bees.
Some people say that mites (tiny bugs) are making the bees sick. Others blame a virus. Still others say that manufactured chemicals are the culprits. Here are a few theories:
- The bees’ immune systems aren’t working right. They can’t fight off viruses or bacteria or fungi. The bees get sick and act strangely. They leave for work and never come home.
- Chemicals sprayed on crops affect the bees’ nervous systems, including their brains. They leave their hives and then forget what to do. So they wander around until they die.
- A strange chemical has gotten into the hives. This chemical acts like a bug repellent. After a bee leaves its hive, it does not want to return.
Here’s a twist on the mystery. Moths and other insects usually move right into a bee hive that’s been emptied. They use it to raise their young. But if the hive has collapsed from CCD, other insects will wait for weeks to move in. No one knows why.
Obviously, no one knows the culprit.
But here are two conclusions we can reach from what scientists tell us:
- Bees are complex little creatures.
- Bees are woven into a complex web of life.
We, too, are part of that web. What happens to honeybees affects us. Read on.
Some Good Buzz
If too many honeybees die, how will our food crops get pollinated? Here’s one answer: native bees!
So far we’ve said “honeybee” and “bee” as if they were the same creature. But that isn’t exactly right. We should have always said “honeybee,” because there are many other kinds of bees.
More than 3,500 different species of bees are native to North America. They lived here long before people brought honeybees from Europe. They pollinate plants that grow here naturally. Most of these bees live alone, in the ground. They’re not affected by that mysterious CCD.
Many of these bees have been created to feed on and pollinate specific plants. There are bees for blueberries, tomatoes, melons, squash, apples, and so on. Some bees are very specialized. One kind lives underground for 11 months. It comes out only during the month its food crop is in bloom. Some native bees do really well “working” crops in a row, such as alfalfa. Bumblebees are good pollinators.
Some of our native bees are not as common as they used to be. Their homes have been covered over and plowed under. They’ve been affected by chemicals in the soil. But they’ve not been wiped out. They’re still here, and they still pollinate crops. With some care from us, native bee numbers could increase. They could pollinate many of our crops.
The mystery is not solved. We still don’t know what’s happening to our honeybees.
God made all bees as working parts of his garden, the earth. We’re supposed to take care of them. Honeybees are not native to where most of us live. Does that make any difference? How can we help honeybees? Should we help native bees? How? Why?