|Honey bee at work, from Wikimedia Commons.|
According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, current models suggest that at least 40 percent of species in nature will be driven extinct by the year 2100 at our current emissions pace (to four degrees Celsius or more above pre-industrial levels).
From Grist and the Pesticide Action Network, an example of how the loss of a single species can threaten the viability of an entire sector of human agriculture.
Although news about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has died down, commercial beekeepers have seen average population losses of about 30 percent each year since 2006, said Paul Towers, of the Pesticide Action Network. Towers was one of the organizers of a conference that brought together beekeepers and environmental groups this week to tackle the challenges facing the beekeeping industry and theagricultural economy by proxy.
“We are inching our way toward a critical tipping point,” said Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board (NHBAB) and a beekeeper for 35 years. Last year he had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he’ll qualify for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In addition to continued reports of CCD — a still somewhat mysterious phenomenon in which entire bee colonies literally disappear, alien-abduction style, leaving not even their dead bodies behind — bee populations are suffering poor health in general, and experiencing shorter life spans and diminished vitality. And while parasites, pathogens, and habitat loss can deal blows to bee health, research increasingly points to pesticides as the primary culprit.