bumbling the bee scare?

On Thursday (the day before yesterday), the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a scolding editorial written by self-styled "investigative journalist" Dave Lindorff who declared that not only are the honey bees "gone," but that so are all pollinators.

In a skeptical post, I noted that it was early in the season (there was snow last week), but that I'd seen other bees in my yard. Because there's been so much noise about the "vanished" honey bees, though, I just assumed that I wouldn't find any of them, so I didn't devote much time to looking.

Now I see that even I -- cynical skeptic that I am -- was being far too gullible!

Perhaps I should have realized that a guy who calls U.S. soldiers "baby killers" and cites fraudulent information to support a 9/11 black box conspiracy theory might not be the most reliable source about bees. But still, the editorial was in the Inquirer, and there have been plenty of stories about "no more bees," so I just sort of assumed....

So, while it probably shouldn't have, it took Glenn Reynolds' link to Mickey Kaus's report that his mother's garden was "absolutely buzzing" with bees to wake me up into events in my own backyard!

I kid you not!

Here's a closeup of a honey bee pollinating the hell out of a cherry blossom on the cherry tree right next to my driveway:


The tree is literally abuzz with honey bees just like that one, and their rear legs are laden with yellow pollen.

The more I thought it over, though, the more I realized that a true no-bees-believer might just say I could have gotten that picture anywhere, and that it could have been taken at any time. Even if people are inclined to trust me, what's wrong with "trust but verify"?

It occurred to me that the best way to date the bees would be to show a verifiable newspaper near them. I still had the Inquirer editorial by Dave Lindorff sitting around, and it's only two days old. So, with great difficulty (taking care not to get stung), I managed to hold the Lindorff editorial next to one of the honey bees on my cherry tree.


Seen from that vantage point, the Lindorff piece could be said to be stung by self-Fisking.

Perhaps that's the natural beauty of reality-based honey bees.

UPDATE (04/29/07): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and for the compliment about the photos!

I just went out and checked this morning, and sure enough, yesterday (which was colder and overcast) was not a fluke. Right now there are more honey bees in the yard than I could hope to count.

posted by Eric on 04.28.07 at 04:40 PM


Appears that the bees didn't get the memo.

Old Grouch   ·  April 28, 2007 6:38 PM

Si sapis, sis apis.

On the other hand, if there are bees in my garden then there is no problem and all the hype is crazy Democratic science hokum.

Ekim   ·  April 28, 2007 6:41 PM

Sorry, won't do.
You must've PhotoShopped that image! Because lord knows, Pres Bush is responsible for the deaths of ALL bees on the planet. There is NO other possible explanation...

Jim, MtnViewCA,USA   ·  April 28, 2007 6:41 PM

Using that newspaper headline next to the bee, I say that you should demand a ransom.

Five million, or the bee gets it...with the newspaper.

edhesq   ·  April 28, 2007 6:45 PM

That second photo is the DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN of enviro-hysteria.

Jay Manifold   ·  April 28, 2007 6:47 PM

This is all imaginary because I have bees in my back yard:


Ekim   ·  April 28, 2007 6:50 PM

There is mounting scientific evidence, however, that the honey bee population and the population of other insect pollinators is declining. While honey bees are still flying through our backyards, many are not finding their way back to "headquarters" and bee colonies are breaking down.

While I don't cry for the poor, sad, abandoned bee children; I would quickly mourn the thousands upon thousands of species of plant life (you know--the ones we eat) which will cease to exist if this problem is not addressed.

Katy Stokes   ·  April 28, 2007 7:13 PM

But according to bee handlers Katy, this happens every couple of decades. It is never explained and the bee population expands again afterwards.

But much like the long history of temperature flucuation in this country, people wanting to cite some anti-growth doctrine jump up and down and yell the sky is falling.

James   ·  April 28, 2007 7:29 PM

The Bees are just pursuing the American dream. They are leaving corporate hive and starting out on their own doing freelance work. More power to them.

honeybun   ·  April 28, 2007 7:50 PM

I think it is an elaborate hoax foisted upon us by commercial bee-keepers looking for government subsidies.

Duke   ·  April 28, 2007 7:57 PM

Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt


Ekim   ·  April 28, 2007 8:01 PM

I expect this bee die-off to have about as much effect as the one in 95-96, which I found out about when I google searched bee die-off in response to the hysteria.

Call me when the environutcases actually have something real to discuss, other than the fact that ALL the environmental news over the past decade has been GOOD news. Well, except for the fact that no one seems willing to acknowledge that environuts are responsible for millions of deaths worldwide, mostly the poorest of the poor.

Tim   ·  April 28, 2007 9:29 PM

Population dynamics is a well known concept in biology. Species populations rise and fall, naturally. Sometimes the rise and fall are dramatic, as in the case of red tides, locust swarms, etc. Diseases can cause a species population to plummet in a single season.

A mere decline in bees is hardly justification to start blaming Bush for the end of the world. Populations vary naturally. Get over it.

Brandybuck   ·  April 28, 2007 9:29 PM

After all, honey bees are collectivists by nature so we can only expect their populations to decline as a result of not being capitalist bees. Now African bees ...

moonbat mode/off

Hankmeister   ·  April 28, 2007 9:34 PM

From the articles I read it sounds like the main problem is the factory-farmed bees...

In the wild this thing wouldn't spread so fast.... Bees from forty states don't usually converge on one location for a bee jamboree....

Deirdre Mundy   ·  April 28, 2007 10:23 PM

Ekim, the majority of pollenation (70% or so, depending on who you ask) is not done by honeybees. It's done by "solitary" pollenators, which include ground bees, bumblebees, and a bunch of other asocial insects, too.

Remember that honeybees are an exotic species in North America, brought here a few centuries ago by European settlers.

Anyway, sad news for the conspiracy theorists, but it seems that the cause of the bee decline is an overlooked single-celled fungus. Epidemics are classic nonlinear ("chaotic") systems. It's expected that once an outbreak begins, disease should proceed dramatically, rather than gradually. Bee populations will be hit hard, then the epidemic will subside for reasons no one can quite pinpoint, and populations will recover. Human epidemics follow similar paths.

It *was* fun while it lasted to blame cell phones and the CIA and global warming and all the rest of it, wasn't it? :-)


Mark   ·  April 28, 2007 10:29 PM

Could I get a wide field shot showing the swarms buzzing your tree? After all that could be your personal pet bee.

Papertiger   ·  April 28, 2007 10:47 PM

First, your bees are so beautiful. As with all things: The truth of the matter lies somewhere between your observations and the No More Bees Story. The Bees are suffering a decline. It is typical of humans to not believe something that is real until it affects them personally. I have shut off my cell phone and am waiting until the scientist decide what is going wrong and how to fix it before I turn it back on. I however think that mites and over use of insecticides has something to do with this serious problem. Bee pollination is responsible for much of what we eat. I hope your bees stay beautiful. Thank you for sharing them.

pixie   ·  April 28, 2007 11:27 PM

Ekim · April 28, 2007 06:41 PM

"On the other hand, if there are bees in my garden then there is no problem and all the hype is crazy Democratic science hokum."

Or even though there is bee decline, there is still pleanty of crazy Democrat science hokum regarding it.

First there was that mite and now probably a virus... but the dems all know its global warming and cell phones... bah...

Thomas   ·  April 28, 2007 11:58 PM

Katy Stokes · April 28, 2007 07:13 PM

"There is mounting scientific evidence, however, that the honey bee population and the population of other insect pollinators is declining."

Is there? I know bumblebees have some easy to explain decline in areas where their habitats are being encroached on by people... but that the honeybee problems are all I'm hearing about...

To which, people are simply propagating non-honeybee... bees. I bought some blue mason bees last year and let them go in my back yard... they seem to have gotten established…

I like the blue mason bees better anyway... They're so passive they won't even attack you if you accidentally knock their nests (you pretty much need to get one caught under your shirt to get stung)... They’re definitely more people friendly and/or safer to have in populated areas…

thomas   ·  April 29, 2007 12:10 AM

Just to reinforce the fact that the honey bee is an alien species introduced by Europeans as they invaded North America.

The Native Americans used to call the honey bee the "white man's fly" and hated to see it because that meant that white men would soon be showing up.

At least that's what I have read.

So, the honey bee SHOULD be wiped out because it is not native to North America.

joel   ·  April 29, 2007 2:19 AM

Wait, wait...oooh, I have a question.

So, honeybees didn't show up until white colonization started. OK, I've read that too.

But, in order to believe the enviro-idiots' claim of imminent catastrophe, we'd have to believe that, prior to 1492, there was no, nada, nunnah pollination going on in North America?

Ok, I'm a gullible gomer.


Matty J   ·  April 29, 2007 3:56 AM

"We interrupt this program to bring you this bulletin from the news room. Swarms of South American Killer Bees have been spotted crossing the border into California. Sightings have mostly been confined to rural areas....Eyewitnesses say that the bees are yellow and black and dress much the way Eli Wallach did in the movie, The Magnificent Seven (1960)."

Papertiger   ·  April 29, 2007 8:24 AM

On the upside, fewer bees means they're leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Arty   ·  April 29, 2007 8:49 AM

Me, I dislike bees. I dislike most insects, but bees are one of the more annoying ones because they sting and crawl inside my soda. If they all died off I wouldnt be remorseful at all. On that note, if they all died off, something else would fill its place. Thats how nature works. Its fairly opportunistic. One man's folley and all that.


LD50   ·  April 29, 2007 1:59 PM

I have a swarm of bees in my backyard. First time in 3 years of living here we have had that problem. They are in a fork of a tree, which appears to be a not too great place.

If they stay more than a few days, I and my next door neighbor will have to bundle up and get the hose out to remove them.

Now keep in mind, this is the high desert of California. We had a Billion dollars in damage to the fruit crop from frost this year. Global warming? Well Arnold fixed it fast enough that we could lose a Billion dollars in agriculture.

Don Meaker   ·  April 29, 2007 9:06 PM

Great comments! I don't know where these honey bees are coming from, but I'm nowhere near any farms.

There are also plenty of bumble bees (and smaller ground bees) competing with the honey bees.

Eric Scheie   ·  April 29, 2007 10:27 PM

You are so missing the point.
There’s a drop in the number of bees, not no bees, just less bees.
The bee loss is global; every nation reports the same thing, shortages of bees will increase the price of honey obviously, as the industry tries to remain viable.
The industry is responsible for an overpopulation of bees. Without farming these insects there would not be as many.
Therefore the drop in number does not threaten the species only farmers and their families, oh and in a few months any one who likes to eat.
Pollination will still occur but not enough to pollinate crops. Crops are just common plants just like common bees, all because of humans selection, bees likewise have been evolved to keep the human process of agricultural selection successful in promoting growth
Therefore we should be worried but not overly concerned.
This event is only a harbinger, it’s not the worst thing that is about to occur.
The cause has been climate change, a common factor globally, the bees are just one of the victims of global warming just as the deniers arguments are slowly vanishing.

simon   ·  May 5, 2007 4:02 AM

I am a very staunch conservative socially and fiscally, I don't blame Bush or anything of the sort. BUT We have become depandant on the bee period. SPecifially the HONEY BEE. Yes it is not native and yes blah blah blah gobbeldy-gook . This is NOT a political issue it is simply a matter of global survivial of commercial croping and pollination. I believe drastic measures are necessary to eradicate the problem. No pesticdes period. NO GMO crops period. Fuck the 'ant-capitalist' whinning you'll hear. Unless we want to eat ONLY potatoes and chicken we need to consider an industry of NO pesticides period or GMO. I lived in Russia and Kyrgyzstan for years...NONE of the local farmers can afford pesticides or GMO..yet their crops STILL produce plenty of food and plenty of surplus to sell in bazaars..maybe not five-thousand precent yield but enouogh. I would NEVER consider voting for crack-pots grennparty, BUT unless a party begins to address this dilema then I may vote for a bunch of kooks that are simply willing to address this prblems. Otherwise we WILL survive but who the hell wants to live ina world where the main meal is potatoe soup period.Bread? Not likely. SOrry but people need to drop the politics on both sides and simply deal with this shit.

Paul Motes   ·  May 6, 2007 12:30 PM

Wake up everyone seriously

Commercial Orchardists don't rely on Bumblebees they hire hives of bees to get polination (fact) properly managed hives will give an orchard a 30% increase in productivity.

Bees don't give a rats arse about Bush Democrats of overweight urban America.

The real concern is that no one can actually scientifically explain the sudden decline.

Rather a lot of the "commercial" food we eat relies on bee polination (include pasture in that)anything that is bad for bees is bad for us
directly and indirectly.

Just a fact to realise no insurance company
in the world will underwrite a genetically modified organism because no one knows
the long term effects they can have on an eco system.

So is it Disease? Ge crops? of some nasty
new spray that the Chemical nut jobs have developed no one know could be a combination of all three.

Or if we ignore it laugh and eat another hamburger it will all go away

Matt   ·  May 10, 2007 6:10 AM

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