Bee-lieve it. We’re in Trouble.

by Reggie Osborne II
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Last night the Associated Press published an article by Seth Borenstein that began with this staggering line:  “More than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year…”

The article reports that since April 2014 beekeepers have lost 42% of their bee colonies.  That’s 42% of all American bee colonies wiped out in 13 months.  That is absolutely staggering.

My daughters would be thrilled to know that there will be far less bees moving forward.  Bees send them running in terror, squealing and screeching their way to safety.  But my oldest has learned how important bees are.  When I asked her recently if she understand what bees did, she answered, “They help the flowers and crops to grow and stuff.”

Well said.  If you’ve forgotten what exactly the bees do, then take a few minutes out of your day and watch the video below:

Bees are essential to our food production processes; absolutely essential!  If we entered a massive drought that prevented rain for months on end, we’d be far better off than if we lost all the bees.

So where are the bees going?  Well, the most likely culprits are the makers of insecticides in the United States of America, and if you don’t know much about the way our country works, let me just say, insecticide makers are huge power-brokers in our world.  They run massive corporations like Bayer, Dupont, and Monsanto.  These are not small companies.  These are giants.

Giant companies like these have the ability to control the press and control the government with big money.  They can make campaign contributions to candidates running for election, but more importantly, they can contribute massive amounts of money to Super PACS that effectively sway public opinion on important candidates and issues.

If a candidate takes their money, he or she is expected to vote their way on all important legislation.  If a candidate doesn’t vote their way as much as they’d like, their money is going to one of their opponents in next election cycle.

Aside from the money, these companies also have massive legal teams that constantly challenge any new regulations that might threaten their bottom-lines.  They win in courtrooms because their lawyers work endlessly on whatever they see as a threat.  Legal fees are not problem for them.  That’s just the cost of doing their business.

They are huge employers of lobbyists, Washington based groups dedicated to swaying votes and legislation one way or another.  These people are not paid to work in the best interest of the country or in the best interest of the world.  They are paid to work in the best interests of Monsanto, Bayer, and Dupont.  They are like the Patriots fan who has convinced himself that Tom Brady didn’t throw deflated footballs.  They’re not paid to be unbiased.  They’re paid to promote the company line.

These companies want their own places in government.  When they support a candidate for office, they expect that candidate to reward them with important positions once they’re elected.  Both Republican and Democratic presidents continue to put employees of these companies in powerful political positions.  Michael Taylor is the most prominent example.  At various times he has been a corporate officer for Monsanto, as well as the presidential appointment to head the FDA.

If it seems odd that an officer of a drug and seed company would be put in charge of regulating all the drug and seed companies, that’s because it is odd.  It’s more than odd.  It’s inexcusably reckless. As this article and many others explain, it’s essentially letting the wolves decide the best way to protect all the chickens.

It should not surprise us that these companies don’t want to take any blame for the disappearance of the bee colonies.  In fact, in the very article that the AP released last night, it’s a Bayer executive who argues against any alarm:

Dick Rogers, chief beekeeper for pesticide-maker Bayer, said the loss figure is “not unusual at all” and said the survey shows an end result of more colonies now than before: 2.74 million hives in 2015, up from 2.64 million in 2014.

So according to a Bayer representative, there’s no reason for any of us to be alarmed!  According to Bayer, we shouldn’t even care that 42% of the bee colonies died last year.  We shouldn’t be worried about the disappearance of bees at all!

Somehow, I’m not reassured.

Is it possible that Mr. Rogers is not being honest with his neighbors?  As the article explains, whenever a bee colony dies, the beekeepers split a healthy colony and replace it.  This means that the replacing colony has fewer bees, undergoes more stress adapting to the new work, and bears less genetic distinction from the previous colony.

In other words, Dick is right when he says that there are more colonies today than in 2014.  But he fails to mention that more than 50% of those colonies are  much weaker than the ones they replaced, and more likely to die themselves.  That’s not exactly an honest representation of the truth, is it?

It’s not surprising that the heaviest bee colony losses were in agricultural hubs like Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, and Wisconsin.  Each of those states lost more than 60% of their bee hives since last April.  Can you even wrap your mind around that?  60% of the bees in those places, gone?

The head bee scientist at the USDA, Jeff Pettis, apparently claimed that “last summer’s die off included unusual queen loss and seemed worse in colonies that moved more.”  It’s logical to believe that the colonies that move the most are the colonies exposed to the most insecticides.

But the reality is that no one can definitively prove why the bees are dying.  So long as Bayer, Monsanto, and Dupont can deny any responsibility, they will.

For Christians, this is a reminder of how little we actually control our world.  God made bees to do the job that they do, and they cannot be replaced by man-made robots or lasers or radio waves.  He is the Life-Giver, and yet it’s often uncomfortable for us to be reminded of how much we depend on Him.

For the human side of it, if it turns out that these chemical companies are destroying the bee population, than what a silly lie we’ve all believed about the importance of their work.  The argument has been that without their products, we could never feed the world.  But if those same products are inadvertently killing off the very creatures we depend on to pollinate crops, then they’re marching hundreds of millions of people to hunger and starvation.

They don’t want people thinking about that possibility, but if the bees keep dying, this story will inevitably generate a tremendous amount of buzz.