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Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

Back in 2007, when the words ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ first hit the media spotlight, I wrote an article that sought to steer through all the reductionist scientific responses — where scientists and the public sought silver bullet solutions by trying to pinpoint a single cause for the mysterious and globally widespread disappearance of millions of bees — to share my thoughts that CCD was not caused by just a single issue, but instead by a number of issues. I tried to illustrate this web of inter-related issues using the example of a wheel — that a wheel can continue with one or two missing spokes, but if you continue to remove more, then eventually the wheel will collapse (there’s that word again), and you’ll, rather ungracefully, hit the dirt.

Each application of the industrial, factory floor mindset to the otherwise healthy existence of a bee, is one more spoke removal. And, as I expressed in that article, we should also recognise that bees are not the only pollinators out there, but most of those have already disappeared from our flower-, fragrance- and diversity-free landscapes, leaving us vulnerably dependent on just one kind of pollinator — the industrially manipulated European honeybee. (As an aside, my article was repeating plagiarised by Brit Amos here.)

In the video above, Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota professor of entomology, having a lifetime of experience with bees, covers the same territory. In short, in my view, too many scientists are focusing only on the bee — when they, and we, need to seriously focus on the failure of our present, globalised, monoculture food systems. Only until we address these systemic issues, will we find that our problems, rather than the bees, will ‘mysteriously disappear’….


  1. Hi Craig. Great article and video. It is just so true about all of the multiple problems that bees have to face. People are in denial about it and see bees as an industrial input / service. Even moving a hive causes massive stress on a colony (and I recommend against doing this), but seeing the footage of that truck with all of the hives…

    I grow lots of diverse flowers for the bees here and there is usually something for them to eat and drink (water is provided for them too) every day of the year. With the climate warming up, they are active right through winter here as long as it is > 10 degrees Celsius and not raining heavily.

    The occasional sting is a small price to pay for their services. I’ve noticed that pollination rates on the fruit trees is way up too this year with the greater bee activity in the food forest.

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