As you may have heard, the bees are leaving. The European honeybee is vanishing at an unprecedented rate. The East Coast of the United States has lost 70% of its commercial bee population this year (2007); the West Coast, 60%. In London, about two-thirds of the bee colonies have died this winter. Heavy losses have also occurred in other parts of Europe and America.
Bees are critical to our well-being and to the health of the ecosystem. Although bees are not native to the Americas, many of our food crops depend on them for fertilization. Albert Einstein famously said that if the bees were to disappear, humankind would have four years to live.
The phenomenon is being called Colony Collapse Disorder, an impressive sounding name which masks the reality that no one has much of an idea why the bees are vanishing. Hives are not found filled with dead bees; instead the bees seem to leave the hive one day and never return. The remaining hollow shells contain only the queen, a few immature workers, and a supply of honey which remains mysteriously untouched by rival bee colonies and other insects.
Many possible causes have been suggested. Heavy pesticide use, genetically modified crops, and the stress of being transported in trucks from commercial field to commercial field have all been advanced as candidates. Mistranslation of a German study led to media sources speculating that the radiation from cell phones was causing the bees to become lost and disoriented. Although there is in fact no evidence for this whatsoever, the apocalyptically mythopoetic resonance of this idea is so high that many people, even when told the truth, continue to insist that cell phones must somehow be implicated. The scientists involved in the original, mistranslated study are unable to work; their lives have been entirely disrupted by the flood of media hype and requests for confirmation.
Whatever the true cause of this absence-in-progress, I offer here an opportunity to spend a few moments with the bees while we still have time, or perhaps to remember them as they once were. Stroke the bees and watch them respond; pretend to yourself for a moment that nothing is lost. Remember the velvety touch of a bee's fur as it dozily crawls across your arm on a lazy, droning, buzzing summer day. Pretend that they will be with you always.
Technical notes: this page will remain untouched as testament to this moment in history, perhaps one of the last moments for the world as we know it, but the links are changing moment by moment to reflect the inexorable drift here at (after?) the end of history. This process is out of my control, although you may note that none of the links on this page are ones which would in some prosaic way lead to information on Colony Collapse Disorder. Many texts were sourced for information, but some phrasing was cribbed from the always-impressive and award-winning Asheville Global Report; they themselves drew information from a number of press sources in the US, in Germany, and in the UK. For those who may be experiencing this work from some point in the future and have not encountered bees first-hand, please do not be confused. The bees you see in the piece are in fact video representations of bees and should not be mistaken for actual bees. The main piece was done in the remarkable Processing language, and its source code is here for you to use as you see fit.
Egg Syntax -- (cc) Early Summer 2007 -- www.novonon.com