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Science Mystery : Honey Bees Are Disappearing


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Science Mystery : Honey Bees Are Disappearing
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drewprops
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2007-04-22, 23:42

I read about this several weeks ago but saw a fresh article on it on CNN.com (link) tonight. It seems that the honeybee populations in the US, Brazil and Europe are experiencing mass disappearances of worker bees and no definitive cause has yet been discovered. Other pollinators are experiencing diminished populations too.

Some theories about cellular/radio interference have been floated, though I'm more of a mind this might have to do with the notion that the Earth's magnetic field is on the brink of flipping poles. If the planet's magnetic fields are in heavy flux I imagine we should be seeing more misplaced migratory animals as well as the pollinators

Regardless of the reason, a significant drop in the population of the pollinators would have a direct impact on food production. While it isn't as sexy as a meteor strike, a period of light pollination would lead to low fruit production, which could lead to substantial changes in localized ecosystems.

I need to go back and read how long geologists believe these pole-shifts last.

Is this type of event large enough to cause extinction for species already living on the fringes of viability?

It's kind of scary.

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scratt
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2007-04-23, 00:00

Scratch that.. I can't find the page anymore.. There is some stuff in 'Chariots of the Gods' about the 'Orange Peel' effect that is quite interesting. And you are right, we are overdue.

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Elysium
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2007-04-23, 01:05

Quote:
Originally Posted by drewprops View Post
Some theories about cellular/radio interference have been floated, though I'm more of a mind this might have to do with the notion that the Earth's magnetic field is on the brink of flipping poles. If the planet's magnetic fields are in heavy flux I imagine we should be seeing more misplaced migratory animals as well as the pollinators

I need to go back and read how long geologists believe these pole-shifts last.
The earth's magnetic field tends to reverse itself in intervals with highly variable durations; sometimes tens of millions of years, sometimes several in the course of a couple thousand years. The switch from a normal to reverse field and vice versa is believed to be fairly rapid. The measured field strength of the magnetic field has shown a 10-15% weakening over the last 150 yrs, prompting not entirely unfounded fears that there may be a spontaneous shift in the near future.

While there has not been any physical evidence of a field reversal/failure to have caused any mass extinctions, the impact of modern society telecommunications and electrical grids could be catastrophic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scratt View Post
Scratch that.. I can't find the page anymore.. There is some stuff in 'Chariots of the Gods' about the 'Orange Peel' effect that is quite interesting. And you are right, we are overdue.
Ah yes, the infamous 'Orange Peel' effect (aka crustal displacement). Here's some background Disclaimer: All of the material just linked to is of a highly speculative and questionable nature based on spurious reasoning.

Problems with the crustal displacement hypothesis:
1) The positioning of the Earth's magnetic pole under a geographic locality can be explained by changes in the magnetic field flux (by as much as 15 km per year) without the need to slide the crust around.

2) The hypothesis was built upon the idea of continental drift in that the continents are not fixed to the crust but were rather floating on top of the mantle. Continental drift was revised in the 1970s into plate tectonics in which the continents are affixed to plates that move relative to each other. Further more these movements are believed to driven by convection currents within the mantle, contrary to the floating mechanism of continental drift required for crustal displacement.

3) Plate tectonics can account for the movement of the continents across the surface of the earth and through multiple climate zones throughout geologic history. Again no need to exert exotic crustal shifts.

4) Rapid climate shifts such as the sudden freeze of Siberia during the last ice age can be explained through reorganizations in the atmosphere permanently displacing arctic air masses to lower latitudes.

5) The last major crustal shift has been argued to have been during the last ice age (100,000 years to the present). However, Antarctica has been at the South Pole and has had continuous ice cover for the last 5 million years. Oops...
There are just so many holes in logic and violations of Occam's Razor with the crustal displacement hypothesis. The scientific basis for it was put forth in the 1950-70s prior to the evolution of the theory of plate tectonics. Continued support is only lent by pseudoscientists such as Erik von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods) and Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods) and not by mainstream geologists

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drewprops
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2007-04-23, 06:40

Of course the problem might not have such a cosmological influence...

Do a google search for "bees disappearing" and you'll come up with a lot of the articles about what they're calling "colony collapse disorder", which could be biological in nature... viral, fungal or nutritional. There's a suggestion that way the bees are being used in a commercial fashion has stressed the bees out... or that there's a form of immunological problem... sort of an AIDS for bees.

The thing that I'm getting out of these article is that it's the commercial hives that are experiencing this phenomenon.... entomologists need to survey wild hives to determine if this is a species problem.

It would suck if the commercially bred bees were able to spread the problem to the wild.

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Moogs
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2007-04-23, 08:01

Albert Einstein was purported to have calculated that without bees, man would have approximately 4 years to live on earth, because there are many food-bearing plants that cannot be artificially pollinated. And it's not only that we won't have nearly as many plants to eat but the livestock won't either. I don't know what current estimates look like but you know it can't be a large number of years, based on a population of 6 Billion people. To start with, it's been said at even 3.5 Billion people is barely sustainable over the long haul, under normal conditions... you start doing the math and things get a little hairy.

Is there any chance this has something to do with Africanized honeybees killing off European and S. American hives? I know that was a concern for a while there... although if we're talking commercial hives then that would be evident right away I suppose.

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2007-04-23, 08:07

Apple's switch to Intel is to blame.
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drewprops
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2007-04-23, 08:40

You'd think that the Africanized bees would've been mentioned, but it has to be a consideration. Might they have carried parasites with them that could devastate the indigenous populations of the territories they've invaded?

Here's a link to a page with downloads of bee colony stats going back into the 70's is somebody has time to leaf through these today....

http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/Mann...ocumentID=1191



.

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thegelding
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2007-04-23, 09:24

well two things:

1. the africianized bees are not the problem...well they are a problem, but not for a lack of bees....arizona has only africianized bees...no non africianized bees left anymore...but there are plenty of them and they still pollinate...so yes they take over, but they also keep a hive just like our more common european bees...

2. i have a hive in the wall of my back yard. they are italian bees...very docile. my wife is actually allergic to wasps (probably bees too) and carries an epi-pen. we have thought of having them removed from time to time, but they have never stung anybody and they are so useful to the ecosystem that i hate to do anything about them...but they are a nice strong colony so far (last year they swarmed 3 times as the wall only allows so many bees before it gets over crowded).

this was one of the swarms...a bee ball....all bees, no hive with a queen somewhere in the middle....



when they swarm like this they are very docile (no hive, no honey, no brood to protect). so you just put a box under the swarm and shake it off the tree into the box and take them to a new home...

here is the bee guy taking the swarm...he almost forgot to put on his mask, i had to remind him...


still he didn't even wear gloves





i have heard of mites killing the bees, also genetic corn, pesticldes etc etc...hadn't heard of the magnetic flip...interesting theory....i kinda actually hope the flip comes in my lifetime....would like to see what, if anything, happens during it...

g

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alcimedes
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2007-04-23, 09:30

The weird part is though these were full colonies come fall, and are empty come spring. No dead bodies anywhere.

The bees are leaving, and we have no idea where they're going.

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2007-04-23, 10:02

Quote:
Originally Posted by alcimedes View Post
The weird part is though these were full colonies come fall, and are empty come spring. No dead bodies anywhere.

The bees are leaving, and we have no idea where they're going.
They know that the Earth will be destroyed soon, so they are hitching a ride with the dolphins.
Now, if we could just get rid of those pesky mice.
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thegelding
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2007-04-23, 10:15

goodbye and thanks for all the pollen

g
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drewprops
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2007-04-23, 10:27

Could somebody troll for papers about this subject? I mean scientific papers...
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thegelding
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2007-04-23, 10:31

well, some stuff here to start your search (yes a political site...but some stuff here)

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/4/23/42210/9088
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Chinney
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2007-04-23, 10:49

Scary stuff.

If it were the poles reversing, wouldn’t it be affecting other somewhat-related insect species as well, such as wasps? I’ve sure not noticed any lack of wasps over recent years. I thought than I had heard speculation about the cause being something far less exotic than reversing polarity, like disease or a parasite. G's link would indicate that these and related theories are the main ones.

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Banana
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2007-04-23, 10:56

A lot of people are also tossing their pet theories into the mix. I ended up being confused, as some sounded plausible but wouldn't hold up under closer scrutiny.

Even the idea of cell phones affecting bees' behavior is questionable when you consider that we have been using radio waves on much larger scale for long time already.

Edit: Chinney seems to be spot on about magnetic fields as well; there's several other species that do use magnetic fields for navigation; we should be seeing pigeons flying into windows if this was a factor.

Either way, I hope someone find the answer soon.
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billybobsky
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2007-04-23, 10:59

Or migratory birds even?

The fact that there are no bee corpses doesn't mean that they are leaving, it just means they are dying outside of the hive. Viruses and parasites have been known to cause behavior changes of animals as large as mice (humans are probably affected as well, we just aren't smart enough to recognize that people with epstein-barr are just a little more insane than those without).

This collapse has only been observed (this time) in commercial hives, IIRC, suggesting a contained biological cause as the last time bee hives collapsed it was the natural hives that disappeared and not the commercial ones... They are two independent populations...
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709
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2007-04-23, 12:00

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chinney View Post
If it were the poles reversing, wouldn’t it be affecting other somewhat-related insect species as well, such as wasps? I’ve sure not noticed any lack of wasps over recent years.
The article mentions that ther number of other pollinators (wasps, birds, beetles, bats...) are dropping as well, but I'm still not convinced it has anything to do with the magnetic field. I've read various theories on the speed and possible effects of the reversal...everything ranging from an unnoticeable easing over a few millennia to "ZOMG we forgot to pay the gravity bill!" . An interesting thing that I didn't know until I read this article is the possibility of multiple poles popping up over the course of the reversal. I thought that was pretty cool.

So it goes.
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zippy
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2007-04-23, 12:04

One wonders if all the pesticides and/or plant foods we spray on our plants and trees could be having an adverse effect.
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alcimedes
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2007-04-23, 12:13

The one that worries me is GM crops with pesticide in them, as that would/could kill bees. However, I'd expect to see corpses, and they aren't active over the winter.

Any type of virus/disease should leave some amount of corpses behind.

They aren't eating in the winter, so the plants/GM crop thing doesn't seem to fit.

Rather, come spring they open up the hives and the bees have gone. You know right now g has the worlds biggest bee ball in the walls of his house.

It's all for a 2007 kegger down at g's place.

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zippy
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2007-04-23, 12:49

I suppose a warming trend could get the bees out of the hive prematurely - where they might then get caught in the cold evening and not be able to make it back, but even at that, you wouldn't think it would be the entire hive.

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Banana
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2007-04-23, 12:55

Well, the thing that baffles me is this: I'm under the impression this kind of thing is pretty much unpredecented.

I mean, if it was a warmer winter with cold evenings or the like, someone would have already had noticed back then; after all we did have had some odd weather without any help from global warming where we saw unseasonally warm temperatures or maybe snow in what usually are warm months.

Same would apply if we were talking about parasites or viruses; we'd surely would have had observed a similar effect earlier.

I'm not 100% sure if I understood this but it looks like this is first time commerical beekeepers starting moving their hives fields to fields; if that is the case, I'd think that alone would be culprit.
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thegelding
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2007-04-23, 13:43

a large part of the problem is commercial bee keepers are seeing their hive populations cut in half or more. these are hives that are well maintained, yet still the bees are just gone...

freaky


as for wasps...i wonder if it is the same? they aren't quite as social and they aren't pollinaters...so would we really notice a decrease? would they be as affected as they don't keep huge colonies?


g

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billybobsky
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2007-04-23, 16:01

Quote:
Originally Posted by Banana View Post
Well, the thing that baffles me is this: I'm under the impression this kind of thing is pretty much unpredecented.
It isn't. As I said there was a collapse of non-commercial hives in the mid-90s.
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alcimedes
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2007-04-23, 17:07

Quote:
Originally Posted by billybobsky View Post
It isn't. As I said there was a collapse of non-commercial hives in the mid-90s.
True, but that collapse was due to disease and parasites.

This isn't as far as anyone can tell.

However, they have seen weird disappearances like this in the past, documented as far back as the 1880's I believe, but never to this scale.

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Banana
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2007-04-23, 21:37

So if there has been disappearances in past, it'd be more like a issue of scale; maybe it's in bees' nature to spontaneously commit suicides lemming-style once every a period, and something made the mechanism go haywire?
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Ryan
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2007-04-23, 22:13

I know it's a little off-topic, but what will be the effects of a pole reversal? Is it the stuff the media predicts or, more likely, given the media's expertise in science, something else?
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drewprops
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2007-04-24, 01:13

There have been some good programs on PBS about this, I think that there's a NOVA episode about pole reversal. Here's the modern way to kickstart your "smarts" on the subject: a wiki article on Geomagnetic Reversal.

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Moogs
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2007-04-24, 09:58

Just a thought: if it were the magnetic fields reversing, and it were happening enough to throw all the migratory bees and whatever else, off their path... wouldn't there be *all kinds* of crazy shit going on in the human world? Compass-based navigation problems (on ships), problems with the power grids, etc?

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Banana
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2007-04-24, 10:22

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moogs View Post
Just a thought: if it were the magnetic fields reversing, and it were happening enough to throw all the migratory bees and whatever else, off their path... wouldn't there be *all kinds* of crazy shit going on in the human world? Compass-based navigation problems (on ships), problems with the power grids, etc?
*ahems* *direct Moogs' attention to certain posts*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chinney View Post
Scary stuff.

If it were the poles reversing, wouldn’t it be affecting other somewhat-related insect species as well, such as wasps? I’ve sure not noticed any lack of wasps over recent years. I thought than I had heard speculation about the cause being something far less exotic than reversing polarity, like disease or a parasite. G's link would indicate that these and related theories are the main ones.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Banana View Post
Edit: Chinney seems to be spot on about magnetic fields as well; there's several other species that do use magnetic fields for navigation; we should be seeing pigeons flying into windows if this was a factor.
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Originally Posted by billybobsky View Post
Or migratory birds even?
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2007-04-24, 11:21

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