Albert Einstein once said:
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."
The extremely strange weather over the past few weeks (can you say "global warming?") has had me scrambling to get things planted in flats or out in the beds that don't usually get started until late April or early May. The actual last frost date here is May 10, but I've never seen it freeze that late in the 15 years I've been here.
So far, no blackberries are blooming, or it would be "blackberry winter" and much cooler than the 80Âº+ days we've been seeing, nary a March wind or a thunder-boomer one. But the dogwoods are in full glory, marking the first time E-V-E-R that they bloom concurrent with forsythia and before azaleas. Mom always told me you can fool azaleas, fruit trees, any spring bulb and redbuds. But you can't fool a dogwood – so once they're blooming it is officially white-shoe season. I've never seen it come this early.
We've also been raking several years' accumulation of leaves and clearing deadfall on the edges of the forest, a bit antsy because we haven't had a good forest fire for the last 4 years so we're way overdue. We've transferred tons of leaves to the bottom garden terraces to compost (we're fallowing the bottom this season) and layer as mulch around the fruit trees. Cherries are done blooming, apples are just starting, but the pears were in absolute Full Glory this week. I have one ancient pear so tall it has a whole section of its top backside cut out so it doesn't threaten the incoming electric lines, and a trunk more than three feet in circumference. My absolute favorite spot to take a break in the shade.
As I lay beneath its white-bloom glory earlier this week I marveled at all the busy bees doing their damndest to hit every last blossom as fast as they could, going for the best of the pollen. The big carpenters weighed down by their loads, lumbering off to the cabin where they live in way too many holes in the old chestnut siding, and where our perennial sport of "Bee-Bopping" with tennis rackets just barely keeps them under control. Lots of slightly smaller bumbles, more honeybees than I could possibly count, and a couple of little sweat bee varieties. Bees, bees everywhere! The mighty pear was literally alive with frenzied activity, and none of the little buggers paid the slightest attention to me. Quite a show.
So it has been quite alarming to me over the past month to read incoming reports of what they're calling "The Great Bee Die-Off of 2007." Something really, really bad is happening, and no one's quite sure what it is. They call it Colony Collapse Disorder [CCD], and some are likening it to Bee AIDS. The Congress is holding hearings, and the situation is characterized as "Catastrophic".
The situation is the same in Canada, Central and South America, Britain, South Africa, Europe, Australia and even China. Beekeepers checking on their hives after the winter are finding them empty. There aren't many clues, the untended larvae left behind to die show no infestation or disease. Several researchers suggest that it looks like bee immune systems have just collapsed, making them susceptible to problems they could normally tolerate. Bees are disappearing everywhere and nobody's sure why. Though there is one bizarre symptom that has turned up in the few carcasses found in California, Texas and Florida. But nobody knows what it is…
It's a strange parasite-like condition that readily crosses species boundaries as if they didn't exist at all. Worse for insects and amphibians than mammals, and it's striking humans too. They call it Morgellons Disease and it's nasty. Lots and lots of theories on what it is and where it comes from (some of them bizarre), and there are research groups at various universities and medical research facilities like Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic working hard to get a handle on it. So far, though, no luck.
One of the theories is that it's a result of genetically engineered organisms, probably some radically hybrid nematode/mold/fluke. This isn't really so bizarre a notion, given Genetically engineered crops and organisms can now be developed and rushed straight to market sans testing for toxicity and without consideration of any environmental concerns, ruled long ago by government regulators to be equivalent to all naturally occurring organisms.
I don't claim to know it's GMOs. I don't know if Morgellon fibrils are 'live' parasites or just strange protein formations. I don't know if it's the fibrils killing bees or something innocuous they've no resistance to anymore. But if they're the proverbial Canaries in the Coal Mine to tell us something's gone drastically wrong, it may already be too late.
Just thought I'd offer up a little doomsday scenario this week before Easter to go along with all the reasons offered in various threads for why the general population may not trust zombies in lab coats to 'cure' global warming with not-clever high-tech quick-fixes. They're so convinced of their own godhood that they'd do something suicidally stupid. May already have done it. Oops.
If the bees go, global warming won't matter to anyone. Neither will 'Peak Oil' matter, or wars for oil, or wars against terrorism, or public school science curriculum or clean air and water, or anybody's Dueling Metaphysics. We'll be extinct, and the universe won't miss us one bit.
It's kind of a pitiful Armageddon, more like a whimper than a Grand Last Stand. It's certainly no more than we deserve for our hubris and greed. But I do think I'll kill fewer carpenters this year. They're amazingly dumb and foolishly aggressive, but they don't sting. This abused but still beautiful world should go to someone when we're gone. Might as well be my bees.