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The Silent Pandemic

It used to be that the worst thing about the “birds and the bees” was telling your child about sex.  Now you have to explain the facts of life about Bird Flu and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  While much is known about the cause and cure of the first problem, the same cannot be said about the second problem; a problem that may ultimately be the larger threat to the continued human habitation of our small blue planet.

 

The main peril from Bird Flu is the spread of Avian Influenza H5N1 to humans and the pandemic it would cause.  However, there is a vaccine for this malady which, if given in a timely manner, has proven to be very effective against it and although it has not turned into the world ending catastrophe that some predicted, H5N1 is still a threat that needs to be dealt with. 

 

CCD is another matter all together.  It is dissimilar to Bird Flu due to the fact that it does not make human ill.  However, it causes bees to abandon their hives, never to return to them, and science has yet to determine the cause of it much less a way to stop it.       

 

There has been much speculation about what why CCD occurs, but so far no one thing has proven to be the reason behind it.  With about one third of every American’s diet coming from fruits and vegetables the source of the spike in CCD must be found or the world will face a potentially devastating famine in the not too far future.  Although CCD has been on the increase during the last 50 years, it was not until recently that the situation became noticeably worse when colonies began disappearing at a rapid rate since late 20061 with some beekeepers reported losing as many as 90% of their bees in a very short time. 

 

When CCD occurs, there is no warning and the results are shocking.  A bee keeper will visit his or her bees one day and the very next day all the worker bees will be gone leaving the hive with only a queen and a clutch of young bees.  The worker bees vanish without a trace.

 

Some of the possible causes of CCD that are being examined by entomologists the world over include:

 

  • The development of a new and deadly bee disease that has not yet been identified.

 

  • An increase in Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications whose electromagnetic fields may cause bees to become disoriented so they cannot find their way back to the hive.

 

  • Global Warming which is causing erratic weather patterns to increase which in turn interrupts the sensitive life cycle of bees.

 

  • The overuse of chemicals on crops which could affect a bee’s ability to find its way home.

 

Since bees are the main source of cross pollination, which is critical to the reproduction phase of plants, virtually every living creature depends on them.  Not only are humans facing the loss of fruits and vegetables from their meals, but all types of wildlife, particularly those herbivores whose meat humans consume, face extinction as their food supply runs out. 

 

In California the threat of CCD is greater than practically anywhere else in the nation since it is home to the massive San Joaquin Valley which is often referred to as the “breadbasket of the nation”2.

California Senator Barbara boxer has proposed legislation to help research the problem.  She has asked for the expenditure of $20 million in 20113 to see if a cause and cure for CCD can be found

 

On the Senator’s web site, she relates just how critical the continued health of California’s agriculture is to all of the country by pointing out that over 90% of America’s grapes and over 50% of its nuts, fruits, and vegetables come from her state.

 

Though California is definitely threatened, CCD is a disorder is a worldwide threat that exists here and now and that must be dealt with immediately.  There is no way to ignore the devastating impact it will have on the population of Earth if it is allowed to continue unchecked. 

 

1: http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572

 

2:http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091119185455AAYkPLp

 

3:http://boxer.senate.gov/en/press/updates/upload/PollinatorFundingLetter.pdf