The Birds, the Bees, and Bill Maher

According to Arianna’s boy Bill Maher, we’re killing the bees. He’s not sure how, exactly, but he’s sure that we humans are responsible. The fact behind Maher’s latest tantrum is this: there’s an epidemic of something called Colony Collapse Disorder that’s causing bee colonies to die off in 24 states across the continental United States and in two Canadian provinces as well as parts of Continental Europe. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened; the disease used to be called “Disappearing Disease”, and it’s been recorded since the 1890’s.

Maher claims it’s probably caused by narcissistic young Americans talking on cell phones, if not from some other human cause:

But I think we’re the ones suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder. Because although nobody really knows for sure what’s killing the bees, it’s not al-Qaeda, and it’s not God doing some of his Old Testament shtick, and it’s not Winnie the Pooh. It’s us. It could be from pesticides, or genetically modified food, or global warming, or the high-fructose corn syrup we started to feed them. Recently it was discovered that bees won’t fly near cell phones — the electromagnetic signals they emit might screw up the bees navigation system, knocking them out of the sky. So thanks guy in line at Starbucks, you just killed us. It’s nature’s way of saying, “Can you hear me now?”

This is apparently the result of his manging a news report on honey bee aversion to cell phone signals that made the rounds of the sensationalist press:

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world’s harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world – the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon – which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe – was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The most likely cause of CCD is the fungus Nosema ceranae:

Researchers have been struggling for months to explain the disorder, and the new findings provide the first solid evidence pointing to a potential cause.

But the results are “highly preliminary” and are from only a few hives from Le Grand in Merced County, UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi said. “We don’t want to give anybody the impression that this thing has been solved.”

Other researchers said Wednesday that they too had found the fungus, a single-celled parasite called Nosema ceranae, in affected hives from around the country — as well as in some hives where bees had survived. Those researchers have also found two other fungi and half a dozen viruses in the dead bees.

So Bill Maher and his brood over at the Huffington Post are exactly 180 degrees from the truth. It’s a natural disorder with a technical cure, the fungacide Fumagillin, which originated in nature and is now made by drug companies. Fumagillin was once used to treat malaria and is effective in protecting white blood cells from HIV. (No, this doesn’t mean that the bees have AIDS and are being punished by the Baby Jesus for their immoral lifestyle.)

Bill Maher is one of those whacked-out animal rights vegetarians who’s always the first to blame his fellow humans for all the world’s problems. Perhaps he’d like us – and himself – a little more if he could wrap his pea-sized brain around the concept that we’re animals too and probably just as entitled to our lives as baby seals are to theirs. I’m not holding my breath.

One thought on “The Birds, the Bees, and Bill Maher”

  1. Like any social animal, bees are extremely susceptible to any communicable disease. There are also tracheal mites that literally choke the bees to death, and a number of other diseases that spread rapidly through hives. The sad truth is that because of spreading hybridization of bees in North and South America by Africanized bees, most of our bees must be imported from Europe. If this disease is coming from Europe, we may have to look elsewhere for reliable pollinators.


    “With 130,000 to 200,000 species of pollinators, a “typical” pollinator doesn’t exist. Beetles, which make up 350,000 named species worldwide, pollinate about 88 percent of all flowering plants, also called angiosperms. Ants, wasps, and bees collectively pollinate 18 percent. Butterflies and moths pollinate eight percent of all angiosperms. Although birds and bats and other mammals don’t pollinate many species, they are vital for the plants that rely on them for reproduction. Bats alone bring us many products, including vanilla, dates, tequila, and bananas.”

    Unfortunately, as the article goes on to say, each type of pollinator has adapted to a specific set of plants in their mutualistic relationship. We shall see how rapidly these species, both animal and plant, can adapt.

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