Thursday, 5 January 2012

honeycomb hideout or zombee

A professor in the American state of North Carolina may have accidentally discovered the pathogen behind the mysterious and wide-spread die off of bee colonies.

Though all sorts of plausible theories have been put forward, ranging from genetically-modified crops to pesticides to global warming and electromagnetic smog from cellular telephone masts and it is probably a combination of these environmental factors, the chance observation of a bee playing host to an insidious parasitic phorid fly could explain the honey bees' erratic and zombified (like ignoring the brood, sitting out the bee-dance that communicates the whereabouts of flowers and foraging at night) behaviour that results in them neglecting their hives. Such a parasite could also account for the pattern of the occurrence and contagion, which is not helped by the practice in some areas of renting hives and trucking bees to fields in bloom. The health and well-being of bees is vitally important for the food-supply, since there would be no new crops, despite the smugness of G-M plants adapted to harsh conditions and tweaked to produce their own pesticides and even as pharmaceutical factories for human medicines--all these plant-hacks to a degree, of course, have been happening without geneticists since the beginning of agriculture and selective-breeding. Trees, grasses and plants that only bloom once in a blue moon would also be gravely affected. It is good that researchers have perhaps isolated one cause and can move forward, but I suspect that human intervention was behind this latest plague too: a related species of phorid fly was used in Texas and Alabama to quell the invasion of fire-ants, with similar ghoulish results for the ants and their colonies. Maybe the same thing was tried in the early 1990s to stop the killer bees, Africanized and aggressive honey bee hybrids, and slowly control over this infectious agent was lost. I hope the bees can be saved, and without creating even bigger problems and imbalance. Maybe the cautionary message of all those zombie movies has stuck.