Do you waggle? Honey Bees perform a very sophisticated dance when they return to their hive called the waggle in which bees communicate the location of their food source. Picture a figure eight move with two loops and a straight run in the middle. The direction of the straight run (in orientation to the sun) determines the direction of the food source from the hive. The rate of looping and buzzing indicate the distance from the hive.
This vital pollinator is in danger. So is our food supply. Why something so small matters so much.
Editor's note: OnEarth's Summer 2006 cover story, reprinted here, was among the first to report the strange disappearance of honeybees and its potential billion-dollar impact on the U.S. food supply.
"Bees crawl all over my body. I sit in the mud of a road embankment, watching the throngs that have landed on my legs. At the peak of one knee, three worker bees stand in urgent conference, sniffing: They stroke one another rapidly with their antennae, which house their organs of smell.
All around them, their sisters tumble. Pairs of bees seize each other around their minuscule midsections and wrestle. Others go about their private business in the midst of the crowd, using their forelegs to groom their furry faces and long tongues.
I watch, calm and safe inside my borrowed beekeeper's gear: ..."
"In 2001, Anderson and two neighboring beekeepers filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and International Paper seeking $2 million in damages. Anderson has found himself enmeshed in the strange world of pesticide law. He's learned to speak fluent pesticide legalese, committed to memory whole sections of FIFRA (the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act), and has become both cynical and stubbornly hopeful about the state of pesticide regulation in the United States. "The law is not broke," he says. "It's the lack of enforcement that's the problem."
Many bee experts assumed varroa mites were a major cause of the severe die-off in the winter of 2005. Yet when researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, traveled to Oakdale, California, where Anderson and a number of his fellow beekeepers spend winter and spring, they could find no correlation between the level of varroa mite infestation and the health of bee colonies. "We couldn't pin the blame for the die-off on any single cause," says Jeff Pettis, a research entomologist at the lab.
Unable to keep their hives healthy near the sprayed poplar groves, many beekeepers have moved away from Eagle Bend, Minnesota, where Anderson and his family have summered for decades. After a particularly disastrous series of die-offs in 2002, Anderson moved his hives to fields far from the sprayed poplars, and he now makes a long commute every time he works his bees in the summer. Since the move, the survival rate of his colonies has improved. Even last spring, when many of his colleagues suffered major losses, his colonies did relatively well. He sees this as confirmation that Sevin contamination is finally fading among his hives.
"I'm standing my ground," Anderson says. "If I pick up and move to another state, they'll just blast me with some other pesticide.""
...Kremen was able to discover which species are most efficient by "interviewing the bees." This involved shrouding watermelon blossoms in bee-proof veils, uncovering them just long enough for a single bee to visit, and measuring the pollen left behind. Some of the natives, including two species of bumblebee and the squash bee, do a far better job of delivering pollen than do honeybees. Kremen also noted that over the two years of her study, the numbers of native bees shifted. In one year, a few types of high-efficiency bees accounted for most of the pollination. The next, many species contributed. That finding argues for the need to maintain a diversity of bees, leaving enough flexibility for crops and their pollinators to survive shifting conditions....http://www.onearth.org/article/unearthed-the-vanishing
And TODAY... Jeff Anderson still fights for the Bees.
Can a Lawsuit Save America’s Bees?
Beekeepers are battling the EPA over pesticides they say are killing their hives— and they're taking the fight to the courts. By Victoria Schlesinger on May 7, 2013
On a warm April afternoon in Oakdale — a small farming town in the San Joaquin Valley of California — beekeepers Steve Ellis (pictured above, with his hives) and Jeff Anderson sit at a dining-room table built for 10 in Anderson’s rural home. Ellis and his bees are visiting from his home base in Minnesota so that the bees can pollinate California almond crops during the Spring, but business is not the only reason for his visit.
On the kitchen wall hangs a plaque in the shape of a bumblebee that reads “The Bee Attitudes.” The two men explain their take on beekeepers’ standard view of environmentalists.