Environmental round-up: Bees and drought in Australia

Earth from the moon“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left,” is quote that is attributed to Albert Einstein. I can’t say for certain that the famed scientist ever said or wrote such a thing, or that it’s even true.

What we do know, is that quite a few crops (such as almonds, peaches, soybeans, apples and strawberries) require bees for pollination on a mass scale. With that in mind, it’s frightening that the bees are disappearing:

US beekeepers have been stung in recent months by the mysterious disappearance of millions of bees threatening honey supplies as well as crops which depend on the insects for pollination.

Bee numbers on parts of the east coast and in Texas have fallen by more than 70 percent, while California has seen colonies drop by 30 to 60 percent.

According to estimates from the US

Department of Agriculture, bees are vanishing across a total of 22 states, and for the time being no one really knows why. (Source: AFP)

If the bee problem wasn’t enough to scare you, the maybe the catastrophic drought in Australia will do the trick:

The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia yields 40 per cent of the country’s agricultural produce. But the two rivers that feed the region are so pitifully low that there will soon be only enough water for drinking supplies. Australia is in the grip of its worst drought on record, the victim of changing weather patterns attributed to global warming and a government that is only just starting to wake up to the severity of the position.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, a hardened climate-change sceptic, delivered dire tidings to the nation’s farmers yesterday. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.

A ban on irrigation, which would remain in place until May next year, spells possible ruin for thousands of farmers, already debt-laden and in despair after six straight years of drought. (Source: The Independent/UK)

Other views: The Moderate Voice (Bees), The Moderate Voice (Australia)


  1. Ian

    They know why the bees are dying. My sister is an entemologist (she has her masters and is working on Ph.D. as we speak). There are small mites which are infecting the air passages of many bees. They basically choke the bees airsupply. The difficult aspect is, how do you kill the mites without killing the bees. That was actually the subject of my sister’s undergraduate research. Perhap this only affects certain species of bees (I’m not the entemologist), but I wouldn’t necessarily attribute this to climate change. Bees can thrive in relatively dry climates (See Mexico and Africa). It could be the mites, or whatever else is killing the bees, are affected by the change in climate.

    The drought is much more worrisome. As Republicans often point out (please see my previous post on “truthiness”, in short, fact is not interpretable nor debatable), climate change is a naturally occurring thing. What they tend to miss is that climate generally doesn’t happen so rapidly. You may have your normal droughts and floods, but they are usually rare occurrances, not the general trend. Usually, a person can live out their lifetime in one place without seeing much change in the year to year climate. I don’t see why making an attempt at reducing mankinds impact on the environment is bad, but I am sure some conservative industrial apologist could tell me why (less profit made?)

  2. Chris

    I wouldn’t necessarily attribute [the bees dying] to climate change.

    I wasn’t trying to say that either… my original thought was that it was pollution.

    Thanks for pointing out the mite problem, that’s very fascinating.