In response to last week's post
about the rapid decline of the world's bee population, several readers wrote in to share their views on this enigmatic problem. Thanks to everyone who contacted me and especially to those of you who pointed out new data which have recently been published. There's one new paper in particular that I'd like to highlight.
As I mentioned last week, several potential causes for the decline of bees have been suggested, including parasitic or fungal infection, malnutrition, and pesticide poisoning. A recent study
by Cédric Alaux and colleagues, published in the scientific journal, Environmental Microbiology
, suggests that the cause of the bees' demise is multifactorial. By comparing the effects of fungal infection (from the unicellular parasite Nosema ceranae
) and poisoning (via the pesticide imidacloprid), they found that the combination of infection and toxicity is more detrimental to bees than either factor is when considered alone.
It is no surprise that multiple causes are involved in the decline of the bees. The interaction between an organism and its environment is complex, sometimes including subtle cause and effect relationships that are not immediately obvious. Once the balance has been tipped, there is no simple solution for its restoration.
Thanks again for all your thoughtful comments. If you'd like to learn more about colony collapse, or about bees in general, please check out some of the links below.
• Information about colony collaspe
from the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium
• One last thought: imidacloprid
(the same chemical that kills the bees and has been banned for use on crops in France) is the principle ingredient in many flea killers that you apply to your pet's skin.