Bees Buzzing Away

This New York Times story highlights an unusual problem faced by beekeepers in California. The bees are disappearing! Beekeepers go to their hives only to find them empty. The story lists many explanations for why the bees are gone: mites, disease, etc. One theory not mentioned is increasing temperatures.

There have been case studies on other creatures that show they are migrating north to avoid warmer temperatures..."Proof that grizzly bears have been moving north from their traditional habitat became evident this spring when a bear shot by a hunter was found to be a cross between a grizzly and a polar bear. Dubbed a 'pizzly' by some, the bear was white but had some of the same markings as a grizzly bear. This is the first evidence of a grizzly and a polar bear having mated in the wild." From THIS story on Canadian animals moving north.

It could be that warmer temperatures are throwing these bees off and causing them to lose their instinctual navigation ability because their former home does not feel the same. Some, including Ohio State Unversity, have theorized that bees use the sun to navigate. Could it be that they use the sun's heat as well? What if that heat was altered by changes in the earth's atmosphere?

Ok, so you're probably thinking..."Who cares, beekeeping is a hobby, they'll adjust." Unfortunately, bees provide many services naturally that humans cannot replicate through engineering. The economic value of pollination is so great that it is impossible to enumerate. Just ask the farmers in California. If bees respond to increasing temperatures in unpredictable ways, then the free services they once provided will suddenly come at a much higher price. Imagine a farmer paying someone to drop bees off at his farm to pollinate. Suddenly a free service now has an economic value.

I actually addressed this exact issue in a post from December.

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