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Bees: Our Pollinators Need Help

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Hua Hiep Hoang

English 101: 2:15pm to 4:25pm

Prof.: Barbara Parsons

November 21, 2017

Bees: Our pollinators Need Help

         Audience: farmers

Human being need food to survive. Without bees, some of the plants we use for food can’t be pollinated by themselves leading to no food production. What makes bees important pollinators is they contribute their life cycles visiting flowers in search of food and nest-building materials, and doing so, they pollinate plants. For example, “bees pollinate about 1/6 of the flowering plant worldwide and approximately 400 different types of agricultural plants” (NPS). But, the advances in technology using in agriculture have put the bees in jeopardy. In the book “The Forgotten Pollinators”, the authors said, “It now appears that the majority of plants studied to date show evidence of natural pollinator limitation” (Buchmann, 24) .Bees don’t get sick normally, but we, human are directly contaminating their habitat environment. If we still love honey, still want to buy farm products from the store, still want to decorate our houses with flowers, we should think about what bees are now suffering and how to help them.

        First, varroa mites was and have been the big reasons contributing to bees’ morality. According to Gunderson’s article, “Varroa mites arrived in the United States nearly 30 years ago, and they’ve become a big problem in recent years”. This evidence shows scientists are now particularly interested in studying about varroa mites just because they are harmful to the bees causing severe damage to the agriculture.  Penn State honeybee expert Maryann Frazier explains, “It’s a parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of adult bees and on the brood. It also transmits virus, and it suppresses the immune system of the bees” (Frazier qtd. in Blouin’s article). Sucking blood from both adult bees and developing brood devastate the whole bee colony. Furthermore, Bessin believes that, “Mites spread from colony to colony by drifting workers and drones. Honey bees can also acquire these mites when robbing smaller colonies”. Hopefully, human intervention will be needed in order to stop this phenomenon spreading out. For example, in agreement with Bessin’s study, “It is best to isolate captured swarms, package bees, and other new colonies from older colonies and examine them for mites before placing them in an apiary”. Also, varroa mite’s claim to fame is that it is able to act as a bridge, opening a way for many types of viruses to get into bees’ bodies. An analogy would be using glue to bind two sheets of papers. Without the glue, the papers won’t stick to each other. Varroa mite acts as the glue between different types of viruses. According to Phillip’s study, “Varroa when feeding on the hemolymph transfer the viruses directly into the open circulatory system, which reaches every cell in the insect body”.

        On the other hand, some people argue that there are no worries about bees are vanishing because scientists are developing tiny drones to be artificial pollinators and are trying to breed another species of bees that are resistant to varroa mites. According to Ponti’s article:

Eijiro Miyako, … has designed what he believes could one day be a partial solution: an insect-sized drone capable of artificial pollination. Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, these pint-sized robots can collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another.

This seems like a good idea. Tiny drones are objects, not animals, so varroa mites are harmless to them. Also, the narrator said, “Turns out some bees are naturally resistant to some of these infections, so scientists are trying to breed entire colonies that can fight off these microscopic horrors” (qtd in It’s okay to be smart). These seems like good ideas for the future of pollination. However, it costs less money and time to focus on protecting natural pollinators than developing new technologies. Under any circumstances of the weather, those tiny drones could not be replaced to be our artificial pollinators. Also, it is easier said than done to breed the entire bee colonies. Those new bees are bred in the laboratory, so scientists need lots of experiments to ensure that those new bees will be beneficial for pollination.

Second, the uses of neonicotinoid pesticides have a tremendous impact to the bee colony by preventing bee workers from getting nest-building materials and bee queens from laying eggs. Charles explains that “Neonics, as they're often called, are applied as a coating on the seeds of some of the most widely grown crops in the country, including corn, soybeans and canola” (“Popular Pesticides…Eggs). Crops are plants that can be grown and harvested for profit. Because not all crops can defend themselves against pests, farmers spray neonicotinoid pesticide on their farmlands to kill unwanted insects. When bee workers look for food on these farmlands, they consume pollens covered by this pesticide. These neonicotinoid-pesticide pollens affect bees’ immune systems which make them vulnerable to viruses and parasites (It’s okay to be smart). For example, the narrator said, ‘“[A]carapis woodi lay eggs inside the bees’ breathing tube, suffocating them to death”’ (qtd. in It’s okay to be smart). Charles’ quotes from Towers talking about the side effects of neonicotinoid pesticide on bees: “‘Disorientation; reduced ability to gather food; impaired memory and learning; and lack of ability to communicate with other bees”’ (Towers Charles’ “Are agriculture… our bees?”). If the worker bees have trouble finding their food resources, there will not enough food for the baby bees, larvae, which are the young generations of the bee colony. In addition, the bee queens are affected because they are fed with those pollens by the bee workers. The role of a bee queen is to keep the bee colony alive. Charles mentioned an experiment by the Royal Holloway University of London shows that “bumblebee queens exposed to the pesticide were 26 percent less likely to lay eggs, compared to queens that weren’t exposed to the pesticide” (“Popular pesticides… eggs”).

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