Marauding bees delayed for eighteen minutes the first pitch of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. It was a rare show of strength for the beleaguered insect whose population has been on a precipitous decline over the past several decades. We once feared ferocious killer bees invading from Mexico; now we fear that fewer bees threatens our food supply.
You may worry about the rising price of your Honey Nut Cheerios. You should be even more concerned about pollination. Remember your ninth-grade science? It’s how plants have sex: plant pollen is transferred from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs to form seeds. Wind, animals and insects are the transfer agents. Bees may be the most important of the players in nature’s mènage á trois.
Bee pollination may be responsible for as much as 70% of food grown for humans, possibly 90% of the world’s nutrition.
Much study and speculation has gone into why fewer bees are at work. It could be the changing climate, or chemical fertilizers and pesticides. More recently, there is evidence that corporate monoculture – giant fields of a single crop appear to lessen bees’ interest in flitting from flower to flower. It seems that sexual boredom of bees is a danger to agricultural abundance.
Meanwhile in France, there was concern about the 180,000 bees living on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral’s staff shared the honey the hives produced. Shortly after the fire was extinguished, bees were observed flitting around the still-in-tact hives. It is not yet known if most of the bee population came through the conflagration unscathed, but early signs are encouraging.