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Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing

Honeybees have thrived for 50 million years, each colony 40 to 50,000 individuals coordinated in amazing harmony. So why, seven years ago, did colonies start dying en masse? Marla Spivak reveals four reasons which are interacting with tragic consequences. This is not simply a problem because bees pollinate a third of the world’s crops. Could this incredible species be holding up a mirror for us?

And it says a ban on its bee-killing pesticides is “disproportionate”?!?

Followers, friends of followers, friends of THOSE friends, sign this now!

If the bees aren’t saved, our lives..ALL of our lives, for that matter, are going to take a huge turn for the worse. 

Please, sign this petition. I’m begging you, followers. It only needs 400k signatures. It’s so, so close to being completed.

Please, sign it. We have to save the bees.

In the past decade, the US honeybee population has been decreasing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. But why?

Emma Bryce offers some explanations in the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees.

One solution?  Plant flowers! In Marla Spivak’s TED Talk Why bees are disappearing, she reminds us that when bees have access to good nutrition, we have access to good nutrition through their pollination services.  

So get out there, Tumblr - and plant some bee-friendly flowers!

Animation by Lillian Chan

Speaking as an experienced beekeeper.

Enjoy not having apples, avocados, blueberrys, onions, cherries and celery ever again for the rest of your life four years after honeybees go extinct because politicians didn’t care enough.

But hey, what’s pollination?

Politicians like to forget that ecosystems are a thing and if one species dies out it can actually have a huge impact on other living things how weird

Scientists Call for End to Cosmetic Insecticide Use After Bumblebee Genocide in Oregon

After the mass poisoning of more than 50,000 bumblebees last week in Wilsonville, OR, and other incidents now being reported in neighboring Washington County, scientists are calling on local officials to ban the cosmetic use of insecticides on city- and county-owned lands. The mass poisoning is the largest event of its kind ever documented, with an estimated impact on more than 300 wild bumblebee colonies.

“The cost of losing pollinators far outweighs any value of controlling aphids on ornamental plants,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator conservation director at the Xerces Society. “After the events of last week, and based on the overwhelming science demonstrating the harm that these products can cause, we are calling on city and county governments to immediately stop the damage.”

The Split Brain of Honey Bees

Honey bees may have only a fraction of our neurons—just under a million versus our tens of billions—but our brains aren’t so different. Take sidedness. The human brain is divided into right and left sides—our right brain controls the left side of our body and vice versa. New research reveals that something similar happens in bees. When scientists removed the right or left antenna of honey bees, those insects with intact right antennae more quickly recognized bees from the same hive, stuck out their tongues (showing willingness to feed), and fended off invaders. Bees with just their left antennae took longer to recognize bees, didn’t want to feed, and mistook familiar bees for foreign ones. This suggests, the team concludes today in Scientific Reports, that bee brains have a sidedness just like ours do. The researchers also think that right antennae might control other bee behavior, like their sophisticated, mysterious "waggle dance" to indicate food. But there’s no buzz for the left-antennaed.

Glass diagnostic tools use honey bees to sniff out cancer

Portuguese designer Susana Soares has created a series of glass diagnostic tools which use trained honey bees to detect if a patient has cancer. The “Bees” project draws inspiration from research indicating that “sniffer bees” can be trained to detect specific odors such as explosives, or in Soares’ case, cancer. We’ve previously seen a similar idea where researchers used sniffer dogs to detect lung cancer and help develop a cancer-detecting electronic nose. And although bees can only be trained to detect a single odor, research by Inscentinel suggests that their abilities are just as good, if not better than their canine competitors. “Bees have an acute sense of smell and can be employed as a flexible and rapid biosensor for biochemical molecular odor recognition,” says Soares. “Bees can be easily trained to target a wide range of natural and man-made chemical odors including the biomarkers associated with certain diseases.” The bee training can take as little as ten minutes to complete, involving a simple process where the bees are taught to identify a specific odor by being rewarded with a water and sugar solution. The bees then associate that specific scent with food and will thus always seek it out in future experiments. (via Glass diagnostic tools use honey bees to sniff out cancer)


The best thing about yesterday’s visit to the lavender farm wasn’t the view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens in the background. It wasn’t the sweet smell of lavender in the hot morning sun. The best thing about the trip was seeing the bees. I pulled my car under a big shade tree, and I as soon as I got out I could hear them – untold thousands of honeybees going about their business of gathering nectar.

I sat on the ground between rows of lavender watching them. I didn’t have to move my camera to focus on them. Instead, I held it in one position and just waited a second or two for them to fly into my view. At times there were as many as five or six honeybees all within my frame.

After the better part of an hour I got ready to leave. As I paid for the lavender I had cut, I talked to the owner about the bees. She said that they are always happy to see them come back, but expressed concern that someday they may not. What a sad thought.

Save the honeybees.


The importance of honeybees | source

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, these under-appreciated workers pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops which constitute 1/3 of everything we eat. Losing them could affect not only dietary staples such as apples, broccoli, strawberries, nuts, asparagus, blueberries and cucumbers, but may threaten our beef and dairy industries if alfalfa is not available for feed. Essentially, if honeybees disappear, they could take most of our insect pollinated plants with them, potentially reducing mankind to little more than a water diet. Bees are of inestimable value as agents of cross-pollination, and many plants are entirely dependent on particular kinds of bees for their reproduction. In many cases the use of insecticides for agricultural pest control has created the unwelcome side effect of killing the bees necessary for maintaining the crop. Such environmental stresses plus several species of parasitic mites devastated honeybee populations in the United States beginning in the 1980s, making it necessary for farmers to rent bees from keepers in order to get their crops pollinated and greatly affecting the pollination of plants in the wild. In recent years commercial honeybee hives have suffered from colony collapse disorder, which, for unknown reasons, left many bee boxes empty of bees after overwintering. Bee venom has also been found to have medicinal properties, used for treating arthritis, multiple sclerosis and even fibromyalgia, and more recently to treat sexual dysfunction, cancer, epilepsy and depression.

Pollination is transfer of pollen from the anther (the male part of the flower) to the stigma (the female part of the flower). Some plants can pollinate themselves: in this case, the pollen passes from the anther to the stigma inside the same flower, and this is called self-pollination. Other plants need pollen to be transferred between different flowers or different individuals of the plant. This is cross-pollination. Many plants can be pollinated both ways. Plants can be pollinated by wind or animals. Honeybee pollinated flowers have nectar tubes no more than two centimeters long. They have nectar guides (patterns to direct the bee towards the nectar) and often a landing place for bees. Bees are especially attracted to white, blue and yellow flowers. Plants pollinated by insects are called “entomophilous”, and insects are generally the most important pollinators. Usually a honeybee can visit between 50-1000 flowers in one trip, which takes between 30 minutes to four hours. Without pollen, the young nurse bees cannot produce bee milk or royal jelly to feed the queen and colony. If no pollen is available to the colony, egg laying by the queen will stop.

Humans’ intense agricultural practices have greatly affected the pollination practices of bees within the United States. The increased use of pesticides, the reduction in the number of wild colonies and the increased value of both bees and pollinated crops have all added to the importance of protecting bees from pesticides. Furthermore, many homeowners believe dandelions and clover are weeds, that lawns should be only grass to be mowed down regularly, and that everything but the grass should be highly treated with pesticides. This makes a hostile environment for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Many bee poisoning problems could be prevented by better communication and cooperation among the grower, pesticide applicator and the beekeeper.