Jun 18 2013

Well, I do like oranges…

See, if bees go extinct, we’ll be fine. We don’t need that many choices anyway.


Why when they tell me I could lose all hope of ever eating one again, do I suddenly have a craving for apples?


Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I’m trying to think now of any story which involves making an agrarian colony on another planet that actually looks at how they’re going to deal with the pollination issues.

  2. 2
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall


    The only one which springs to mind which might is one of Heinlein’s juveniles, Farmer In The Sky. My memory of it’s a little hazy, but I do recall discussion of stiff penalties for swatting insects—they having been imported for good reason, etc.

  3. 3

    This may be a silly question, but i don´t know to whom ask.

    How was polinization done in the American continent before the europeans import bees to america?

    So far i have seen the problem are the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) , but are all polinization insects affected? or did the European honey bee replace all native species?

  4. 4

    I’ve read around -just being curious- that navel oranges don’t need to be pollinated, while others like clementine mandarines need cross-pollination between different trees (wich I guess would be typycally done by bees). Am I wrong?

  5. 5

    Nanahuatzin makes a good point. Honeybees are a subset of pollinators, not the whole group. They’re very efficient, and honey is a nice by-product, but the majority of the work on my farm is done by butterflies and bumblebees.

  6. 6
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    What about figs? Aren’t they pollinated by wasps? Or do we not give a fig ’bout those?

    (Trying and failing to recall the last time I actually ate a fig.)

  7. 7
    Brett McCoy

    I thought everything was genetically modified anyway, who needs the bugs?

  8. 8
    Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority)

    It’s all a plot to make Jeanette Winterson a liar.

  9. 9
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    More jobs for us!

  10. 10


    Honeybees are a subset of pollinators, not the whole group. They’re very efficient

    European honeybees are not efficient pollinators. A gigantic paper that just came out showed, regardless of the honeybee density, as the density of wild pollinators increases, fruit set increases over a majority of crops across multiple continents. Honeybees can bring a ton of pollen, but they are not terribly good at getting it to where it needs to be to contribute to fruit set.

    Check out Garibaldi et al. 2012. Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance in Science.

  11. 11
    Francisco Bacopa

    I couldn’t figure out why there were still oranges in the picture. Thanks for reminding me of navel oranges. I didn’t think of them because nobody grows them around here. Funny thing is that I see grapefruits in the picture too, probably from Texas. Are they mostly pollinated by sweat bees of the Halictidae family?

  12. 12

    Bees eh? Damn you Meyers I waste enough time on this blog as it is.

    Honey bees do have limitations as pollinators for a couple of reasons, for one thing, unlike bumble bees, they’re not great at buzzing, which bees do to loosen pollen from the flower. The wild bee world is amazing, I’d encourage anyone to read up on them. It’s like immersing yourself in a real life children’s story with characters like wild hoary squash bee and the wild blue orchard bee, here in ontario alone there’s near 400 species of wild bee. Many of course at risk.

    And it’s not just produce we stand to lose but all kinds of plants, trees, bushes, grasses. If it flowers chances are good it depends on wild bees. Where I live, without bees, there would be a lot of hungry cranky bears coming for our oranges.

    Definitely check out the Xerxes invertebrate conservation society, they have a beautiful site and lots of info about bees. http://www.xerces.org/bees/

  13. 13

    I’m also going to link melittologist Laurence Packer’s page, http://www.yorku.ca/bugsrus/index/.

  14. 14
    Tsu Dho Nimh

    “How was pollinization done in the American continent before the europeans import bees to america?”

    Native bees: “orchard bees”, “alkali bees”, “mason bees” etc are all excellent pollinators. There is even a species that specializes in pollinating squash plants.

    However, they do not produce much – if any – honey, and they are solitary, so can’t be moved from one place to another … you have to maintain a suitable habitat for them within their flight distance.

    That’s not difficult to do – http://agpollinators.org/ has tons of information on how.

  15. 15

    Not that I think we should take the bee problem lightly, but…

    I think the assumption that no other insect would evolve to fill that niche of pollinating what bees currently pollinate is premature. In fact, there are probably insects already evolved that can do that, and will move in if the bees disappear. In fact, as a botanist with friends who are entymologists, I feel relatively comfortable that pollination would go on.

    Again, this is not to minimize the problem of the bees. It’s just…well, evolution and all, you know. And the potential niche of many species is actually larger than the realized niche, so let’s be a bit more skeptical.

  16. 16
    David Marjanović

    I think the assumption that no other insect would evolve to fill that niche of pollinating what bees currently pollinate is premature.

    It would take a while, though.

    An evolutionary while.


    Greek en-tom-on = Latin in-sect-um. “Cut in”. No relation to etymology.

  17. 17
    Adela Doiron

    There are a lot of self pollinating varieties of produce out there including heritage breeds. Protecting honey bees is about protecting commercial monoculture and not the environment.

  18. 18

    Wait, so evidently bees also pollinate some, but not all, human beings as well? At least according to the “after” picture?

    Learn something new every day!

  19. 19
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    I don’t have anything to add, I just wanted to take the opportunity to reference this comic panel yet again.

  20. 20

    the big deal I think is an agribusiness problem both in the cause and the solution. It is true that there are many wild pollinators agriculture practice of using none selective insecticide and weed killer does not make an environment conducive to a very diverse insect population were other pollinators can thrive. The wild populations may not peak when the crop is flowering hence the practice of trucking in “migrant pollinators”
    I doubt that the problem of hive collapse has one simple cause and answer. It seems to me that the balance is off. The thing that has changed is the growth of agribusiness which has its focus on profit in the same way most modern businesses are run often on more short term returns and not on sustainable really long term planing relatively speaking.

    unlike in a Hollywood scenario this crash is more in slow motion, it is too slow for most people to notice until it is too late.
    uncle frogy

  21. 21
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    Yes, there are self-pollinating plants. There are also plants that will not self-pollinate, even if the wind carries the pollen from one branch of the tree to another. Cherries, for example.

  22. 22

    Much of the world’s staple crops are pollenized by wind: wheat, rice, corn, grapes, nuts, hemp, rye, barley, soybeans, sugar, and oats, for example.

    If by some fell stroke every pollinating insect disappeared (and not just the European honeybee), it wouldn’t be pleasant, but most of us wouldn’t starve.

    I count on mason bees and bumble bees to take care of my garden, personally. I keep a border of clover to tempt them in. I’ve also made little mason bee “houses” from holes drilled in 2x4s. I also don’t use pesticides, so that helps.

  23. 23
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    it wouldn’t be pleasant, but most of us wouldn’t starve.

    I know PZ started the trend by using the supermarket as an indicator of what we’d lose; however, do you not place any priority on biodiversity? Are you proposing that it’s OK if all this bad shit happens to all the ‘little’ creatures since humanity will survive, albeit in a changed and possibly less than hospitable world?

  24. 24

    There are a lot of native bees and other insects that are pollinators, also. See a whole bunch of articles here by one expert in the field (Mainly because I know Steve and Steve knows his shit…)

  25. 25

    I turned my garden over to wildlife a while ago and this year added 3 small apple trees. My bee friends have done their work and I have a few apples starting to form (Cox, Gala and Discovery).

    This evening, I discovered a toad. I also have resident hedgehogs, which are far less common in the UK than they used to be (not a toad’s best friend, I know).

    Nature is awesome.

  26. 26

    We are going to need a dozen or so whambulances here! We have a crisis. Multiple cases of virtual ‘slapped in face’ that need attending to. The rosy cheek of Freethought Blogs will return to its original colour in a few days time. Next time, I suggest you all stand beyond an arm distance length from organisations such as CFI, when you make your inflexible, obdurate, outlandish demands.

  27. 27

    Comment above not meant to be with oranges…mistake…now gone to CFI thread.

  28. 28

    Will those silly women never learn eh Moda?

  29. 29
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Comment above not meant to be with oranges…mistake…now gone to CFI thread.

    You are aware, of course, that your comment is equally vacuous and irrelevant there?

    Back on topic…

    I wasn’t aware, as some other commenters seem to be suggesting, that the only bee in danger of extinction was the Honey Bee?

  30. 30

    I found this article in scientific american:


    European bee populations are also declining, and so are some species of North American bumblebee. That data is often interpreted to mean that all of the world’s 20,000 bee species are in danger, and that we may be in the midst of a “global pollinator crisis.” But there’s little data to back up those claims, scientists say.

    “When you look at what’s out there in the public press, the implication is that pollinators are all under threat, that there’s some kind of mysterious decline across the board,” says Sam Droege, a biologist at U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. “The problem is, there’s really no data to show that either way.”

    While the domestic bee has taken all the atention, but seems some of the original pollinators of america are still there.

Comments have been disabled.