Beemergency! A Mystery Plague Threatens Britain's Bees and the Result Could Be Worse than Foot and Mouth
By Vince Cable, Daily Mail (UK), 5/31/2008
…Bees matter. And not just for honey. When they are collecting nectar to make honey they spread pollen, which fertilises many of our garden flowers and useful fruits.
Apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, broad and runner beans depend on them. They are the unpaid workers whose labour supports many an orchard or garden.
On the narrowest calculation, they help produce £165million a year of marketed products.
Yet unthinking human activity is doing considerable harm. Britain’s bumblebee population has been drastically reduced.
One factor is the use of dangerous insecticides in agriculture. These break down the bees’ orientation and communication skills and impair their memory.
Bees travel many miles for nectar and use a complex language of dances to point to the location of flowers. Without their inbuilt navigation they can’t find their way back to the hive.
Honey bees are also in a battle for survival with parasites. Professional beekeepers transport their hives across country – which contributes to the spread of parasites such as varroa.
This leeching mite has virtually destroyed the wild honey bee population. It activates lethal viruses which it carries from bee to bee as it feeds on their blood.
It is like a dirty syringe spreading HIV and is probably causing more damage than foot-and-mouth disease.
But bees, unlike livestock, do not have powerful commercial interests to support them...