Planet Gore

Bjørn Lomborg: ‘There is No Bee Crisis’

Shocker. There are “bee alarmists,” too. Lomborg writes:

Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no “bee-pocalypse.” There is lots of alarmist talk about colony collapse disorder, people are blaming pesticides and talking about hundreds of billions of dollars at risk. But a closer look tells a very different story.

Yes, honeybees are dying in above-average numbers, but the most likely cause is the varroa mite and associated viruses.

Moreover, if you look at the actual numbers, they undermine much of the catastrophic rhetoric. In the United States, where we have good data, beekeepers have adapted to CCD. Colony numbers were higher in 2010 than any year since 1999. The beekeepers are not passive victims.

Instead, they have actively rebuilt their colonies in response to increased mortality from CCD. Although average winter mortality rates have increased from around 15 per cent before 2006 to more than 30 per cent, beekeepers have been able to adapt to these changes at fairly low cost and to maintain colony numbers.

Honeybee deaths are also nothing new. The Breakthrough Institute reports that, in 1853, Lorenzo Langstroth, the 19th-century bee-keeper who invented the modern hive, described colonies that were “found, on being examined one morning, to be utterly deserted.

The comb was empty, and the only symptom of life was the poor queen herself.” In 1891 and 1896, large clusters of bees vanished in a case known as May Disease.

In the 1960s, bees vanished mysteriously in Texas, Louisiana and California. In 1975, a similar epidemic cropped up in Australia, Mexico and 27 U.S. states. There were heavy losses in France from 1998 to 2000 and also in California in 2005, just two years before CCD was first diagnosed.

Yet, scare stories abound. We are being warned that “bee deaths may have reached a crisis point for crops,” and some commentators go as far as invoking an impending “bee-pocalypse” or a “bee-mageddon.”

Others have also prominently employed a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” The implication seems to be that if the smartest guy on the planet was alarmed, we should be too.

However, the quote seems to have been made up, first appearing in 1994 in a pamphlet distributed by French beekeepers, protesting the high cost of sugar for feeding bees and opposing a proposed reduction of tariffs on imported honey.

The rest here.


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