Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Columns

Bees' looming extinction is bad for us all

BY J.G. NASH
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Of Cabbages and Kings

Around six years ago, I became aware that bees were dying off at a worrisome rate, and no one appeared to have any idea why or what to do about it. I then wrote several columns about that subject, in which I sought to stimulate popular interest in what I saw as a looming disaster for agriculture. Those attempts to alarm were met with extraordinary disinterest. Many commented with, "So what! Who needs 'em?" Others admitted that, "We hate stingin' bees - good riddance!" A few others thought that it might be just another natural cycle, which would work its way out.

Now, the major news magazine Time has run a feature story on the serious problem posed by rapidly declining bee populations. As Time points out (Aug. 19 edition), a third of the food in our diets depends, to varying extents, on bees. Without bees, California would have no crop of almonds (its major agricultural export); bees also are responsible for most of the apple, onion, cucumber, celery, watermelon and other crops nationwide.

That list of popular food items doesn't even mention the loss of honey, which many seek to sweeten breakfast cereal, top warm sticky buns, as a glaze for baking, or, in the classic sense, to help take a dose of bitter medicine. There's also the potential disappearance of the rare and wonderful Tupelo honey (only available from Florida), which is a sweet treat that diabetics can safely enjoy.

Yes, the looming extinction of bees should concern all of us; in an attempt to learn why we're not much interested, I followed the advice of a recent correspondent, and "surfed the Internet." What I found might surprise, and/or amuse, you.

According to that "reliable" Internet: bees, intentionally infected with a newly developed, deadly disease, have been set loose here by those evil, bearded Mohammedans, that want to destroy "America." If that seems unlikely to you, then how about the Republican Party version, which has microscopic parasites (which no one can isolate or identify) killing the bees. The purpose of that being to further discredit poor Mr. Obama by causing an agricultural disaster of epic proportions. It must be true-if it's read on the Internet, or any of the empty-headed, popular, electronic social gossip networks.

The facts, however, are not at all amusing, but some of the Internet gossip appears to have been derived from some of them. There are around a half-dozen different suspects, any of which can, and does, destroy honey bees. There are new pesticides used on crops foraged by bees; deadly viruses and bacterium; microscopic mites and tiny beetles that attack bee hives; and also fungal infections that decimate them. It seems likely that some combination of these threats is causing the colony collapse disorder (CCD), which is driving beekeepers out of businesses operated for generations.

It appears that a solution to the looming disaster will, to be found in time, require immediate and dedicated action by the unique powers and assets of the federal government. This is where the centralized government can, and should, shine; rather than in being involved in our bedrooms. Our president should take the lead, making this a high priority effort to save a large part of the nation's agriculture. Unfortunately, it appears that Barry is too busy with complex, vital issues, such as canceling meaningless meetings with Russia's head of state, because of some childish spat over their having offered sanctuary to an air-headed leaker of some of our minor secrets.

Folks, please understand that this decimation of bees is a serious national problem. If not soon stopped, your choice of foods will be significantly altered, and prices of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with products made with them, will skyrocket.

While agriculture is being seriously threatened, it's selfish, corrupt, sleazy, business as usual in Washington, and bees don't usually vote (not, at least, when official photo ID is required), so the required action is up to us. We need to let our elected representatives (including, especially, the president) know our feelings on this matter.

Of Cabbages and Kings is a syndicated column by j.g.nash. Relevant comment may be sent to him at jgn@jgnash.com

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