Cocktail party conversation recently touched upon the steady and disturbing decline in local, nationwide and even worldwide bee populations. Historically, it's not the first time something like this has happened, but it seems scientists are wondering whether this event -- especially the pollinating season of 2007 -- is the most dramatic die-off to date.
Two years ago several theories debating the cause of the die-off emerged. Is it manipulation of DNA to produce bees more interested in pollinating plants than making honey? Is it new chemicals meant to pollinate plants without the help of bees? Is it new and more deadly pesticides for farms and gardens? Is it the invasion of new parasites as well as the chemicals used to fight the parasites? Is it a virus? Is it the 30 year drought? Global warming? Is it confusion and bewilderment produced by continual shipping from place to place? Is it radiation produced by the ever increasing number of cell phone towers?
From gay marriage to the coming apocalypse, other not so very scientific theories were discussed as well. Still, the question of chemicals returned to the center of conversation more than once. As we sipped our summer cocktails, someone suggested that a pesticide- and chemical-free garden would be a godsend for the troubled bees. "Like an island in a sea of poison. If only we could convince enough people to stop using harmful chemicals, the island could grow." A retort was inevitable: "But, what if chemicals and poisons aren't the only problems? What if it's a disease produced by an accumulation of conditions? No one knows where to begin." A very reasonable suggestion was returned: "Well, maybe we should begin eliminating those conditions one by one. We can start with what we ourselves can control, start with the chemicals closest to us."