Stinging fears over ‘bee-pocalypse’

honey_bees“Pollinator summits” in Minnesota and elsewhere during the past year have showcased discussions among beekeepers, landscapers, farmers and government agencies on how to better protect honeybees, butterflies, birds and bats that pollinate flowers, crops and other plants.

If those efforts are going to be successful, we all have to focus on facts, and some interesting history.

European colonists brought domesticated honeybees to North America nearly 400 years ago. Additional species were introduced over the following centuries. Of all pollinators, the honeybees do the truly heavy lifting.

In recent years, higher-than-normal wintertime deaths have generated understandable concerns about “colony collapse disorder,” bee extinctions, a potential “bee-pocalypse” and the “plight of the bumblebee.” Some have blamed the high death rate on pesticides, especially neonicotinoids that are used primarily as seed coatings and, to a lesser degree, in other applications.

However, most people are unaware of some important facts that need to be included in pollinator discussions, if we are to get the science and policies right.

For one thing, reports of major, unexplained bee disappearances date back at least to 940 A.D. in Ireland. The vexing problem is nothing new.

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