"But I think we’re the ones suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder. Because although nobody really knows for sure what’s killing the bees, it’s not al-Qaeda, and it’s not God doing some of his Old Testament shtick, and it’s not Winnie the Pooh. It’s us. It could be from pesticides, or genetically modified food, or global warming, or the high-fructose corn syrup we started to feed them. Recently it was discovered that bees won’t fly near cell phones — the electromagnetic signals they emit might screw up the bees navigation system, knocking them out of the sky. So thanks guy in line at Starbucks, you just killed us. It’s nature’s way of saying, 'Can you hear me now?'"Many readers will be at least a little familiar with news of the global collapse of European honeybee (Apis mellifera) populations. I've talked with friends and acquaintances who take this development very seriously, while others who dismiss it offhand. Whatever their attitude, however, most people possess only a superficial understanding of colony collapse disorder (CCD). As with most "natural" declines, the science of the situation is more complex than our major media outlets report.
Consider the following wrinkle. The European honeybee, the species in question, is not native to the United States. While many areas of agricultural production will be adversely affected by their collapse, some entomologists have pointed out that populations of native bee species may rebound as the niche they originally filled (as pollinators) opens up again. On the other hand, those native bee species are not domesticated, and therefore will not pollinate crops as efficiently as European honeybees do. No surprise there; what's good for biodiversity is rarely good for industrialized agriculture.
I'm very curious to learn what (or what confluence of causes) is responsible for the collapse. While I’m pleased to see celebrities like Bill Maher making a popular fuss about an environmental dilemma, the media only chose to issue a red alert regarding this particular environmental issue because it could lead to diminishing economic returns. Given this agrinomics bias, the science side of the news story is generally glossed over or grossly simplified.
Fortunately, there are folks offering more comprehensive summations. Link over to Bioephemera for an excellent roundup of the situation (and one of Cicada's lovely paintings, to boot).