I wrote something about this NYTimes op-ed for a different forum (a local group of beekeepers):
The article covers important topics, but it's badly written and I think the underlying argument is confused. The title and blurb suggest that honeybees are facing their demise, and their colonies are collapsing. But "colony collapse disorder" was a relatively brief phenomenon. As soon as it was identified and its characteristics described, it disappeared.
The problem, in a sense, is that beekeepers have figured out how to keep their colonies going, with nucs on the side and replacing queens as needed. Honeybees aren't facing extinction any time soon, and that kind of talk blurs and mixes up the deeper issues that are real and seriously threaten our species more clearly than apis mellifera.
Winston writes: "Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message..."
I'm curious to see the forthcoming book, Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive, but I'm thinking anyone who wants to track his lines of reasoning will have a hard time, if his NYTimes essay is anything to go by.
Someone else in that group mentioned that "Mark Winston for many years was a columnist for Bee Culture magazine but more importantly has been a researcher in this field for many years."
His NYTimes essay covers, and mixes together:
- honeybee colonies dying in huge numbers, about one-third of hives each year
- increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society
- death by a thousand little cuts -
- pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites
- fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases
- nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields
- and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself
- a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems
- pharmaceutical interactions in humans, with many prescription drugs showing harmful or fatal side effects when used together
- exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals which may affect human health
- thousands of wild bee species that
- could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture
- are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees
Personally, I think all these issues are important, but the interactions are more subtle than Winston allows for in his writing. Too bad.