Bzzzzz!

Dossier ~ Monday 28th September 2009
Quick and Flupke - Farce et attrape - Page 46]

Bees are disappearing at an alarming rate  -  some research puts the figure at a staggering 80%. Are bees becoming extinct ? Without them, life on Earth may cease to exist, a fact that suggests we are in a serious situation! A world crisis summit has been convened in Montpellier to focus on the problem.

Gathering nectar for life itself

The bee : a symbol of hard work, a producer of honey, a builder of hives, and an insect that packs a mean sting! All these things come to mind when considering our little black and yellow friends from the garden. They're actually more than just our little " friends " : bees are indispensable to life as we know it ! It's amazing to think that our very survival depends on an insect no bigger than a centimetre in length, but this is really the case. Albert Einstein predicted that if bees were to disappear, life on Earth would come to an end within three years.

The art of pollination

When worker bees leave the hive, they fly from flower to flower, gathering nectar. They extract the sugar, regurgitating it upon their return to the colony. This substance makes honey, something widely appreciated by humans, and which is far more nutritious than the sugar derived from sugar beet. Yet this is not all that bees are good at. While on their rounds, they also collect pollen from flowers, sometimes intentionally but often just by rubbing against them. In the latter case they carry the pollen stuck to their hairy bodies, before depositing it on other flowers. In this way, new plants are seeded, which grow to produce new flowers, which in turn attract more bees. Through this process, bees play an important role in this particular cycle of life, more so than other insects and weather conditions. Their contribution is in fact more than " important "  -  it would be correct to say that it is critical : 35% of our food supply and 80% of flowers depend on bees.

Bees offer more than honey ?

Although bees produce honey directly, we are also dependent on them for other types of food. For example, if flowers aren't fertilised by bees carrying pollen, then they can't create reproductive cells, which spells trouble for trees, fruit, vegetables, cereals... that's to say lots of the plant life that provides food for us, and also for other animals. If animals can't find enough to eat then unfortunately they die out, leaving human beings, despite being omnivores able to eat both vegetables and animals, in dire straits. An animated film made with American comedian Jerry Seinfeld, entitled Bee Movie, has approached this question in a humorous way. But the reality is far more serious: our very survival is at stake !

The bee must be saved !

Bees are vanishing by the millions, and the phenomenon appears to be accelerating. In some regions of France, the deaths of up to 80% of bees from certain hives have been recorded. This has been going on for a dozen years. The problem is so worrying that in September 2009, 500 researchers and 10,000 beekeepers met in Montpellier (France) to work out how to avert disaster. There are multiple causes of the vanishing bee colonies. One factor is the use of pesticides in non-organic agriculture. Spread over vast areas, these chemicals kill bees or poison them to such an extent that they can't find their hives.

... and quickly !

The greenhouse effect is also a suspect in the decimation of the bee population. Yet it appears that one of the biggest culprits is a type of mite, the Varroa destructor, which is a miniscule parasite similar to the dust mite, the cause of so many allergies suffered by human beings. The problem is that scientists don't know much about the Varroa destructor. We do not know how they develop. Bee specialists have found ways to reduce the numbers of these parasites, with encouraging results: over the last two years, the loss of bees from some of the colonies affected has dived from 80% to 10%. So there is no need to panic, although the problem remains very serious.

Our friends the bees

While it's true that the sound of buzzing can get on our nerves, one mustn't mix up bees with wasps. Wasps are more hostile creatures, although bees may attack if provoked: in The Castafiore Emerald, it's Captain Haddock's nose that is the perceived aggressor ! But it's bees that are ultimately responsible for a close call in Destination Moon, at the moment when Tintin's honey sandwiches attract the unwanted attention of a family of bears. At the opening (December 2009) of the Copenhagen climate conference, which will be focussing on CO emissions, you can bet that directly or indirectly, bees will be somewhere on the agenda.

Vos contributions Contribuer
Pas encore de contribution...
Choose a username
Entrez votre email
Enter a password
Choisissez un pseudo entre 5 et 12 caratères.
Validate my registration
Dans quelques secondes vous allez recevoir un email de confirmation.
 
Vous pouvez dès à présent vous connecter avec vos identifiants.

OK