There are usually three parts to a "mass die off" news story that I see.
There is definitely that pattern present in the articles I've read so far.
First, the terrifying facts are stated - so many animals died/were found dead.
Secondly, the scientists are quoted to buff up the piece.
And last, there is a reassuring quote from the "expert(s)" designed to ease our troubled minds.
Usually the third, ending part is either "these mass animals die offs happen all the time, what's the big deal" or "bring some inane, improbably reason why these animals died" - for example - "this was caused by fireworks, at New Year's, that's why these birds died in several states, no worries!".
Here's a new one,
Associated Press via Washington Post, Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 9:21AM.
GEYSERVILLE, Calif. -- California wildlife officials are trying to figure out what caused the death of more than 100 birds found clustered together just off Highway 101.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that California Highway Patrol officers found the dead birds near the roadway on Saturday and called in the state Department of Fish and Game to investigate.
The officers who found the birds described them as small with brown and black feathers. They were intact and had not been shot.
The reports come as other, larger bird deaths have been reported in Arkansas, Louisiana and other states.
This is now officially terrifying.
Funny, no scientists are quoted in this one.
Pretty short article.
Scientists say mass die-offs of wildlife happen regularly, and are usually unrelated and unreported.
Right, see, nothing to worry about.
The Guardian, UK, Monday 3 January 2011.
The abundance of four common species of bumblebee in the US has dropped by 96% in just the past few decades, according to the most comprehensive national census of the insects.
Bees are pretty important - they pollinate our crops and flowers, for starters, and also give us delicious honey.
But I figure the breathing and eating part is somewhat pertinent to my personal - and, incidentally - the rest of the human race's survival.
Thank goodness this is only happening in the United States of... uh...
The Independent, UK, Wednesday, 23 April 2008:
They (British beekepers) want the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to carry out an urgent research programme into the diseases that seem increasingly to be threatening honey bees in Britain and in other parts of the world. The beekeepers have costed the programme at £8m over five years. The Food and Farming Minister, Lord Rooker, accepts that bees are facing serious threats. In fact, he himself has warned that honey bees could be wiped out in Britain. But he says that Defra simply doesn't have the cash to fund the research.
Threats to bees?
ee colonies have always been vulnerable to disease because they are densely packed environments through which infections can spread rapidly; a bacterial infection known as foulbrood has been known for more than a century. But in recent years the threats have grown. One of the biggest has been the varroa mite, a tiny insect that feeds off the bodily liquids of bees in the hive, especially in their larval stages. The mite, which carries a damaging virus and can wipe out whole bee colonies, was first detected in the US in 1987 and in Britain in 1992; now it has spread to much of the world. It can be contained with chemicals, but increasingly, the mites are developing resistance to the chemicals used against them.
Other damaging hive invaders from other parts of the globe, which have not yet been seen in Britain but may well be on the way here, driven by climate change, include the small hive beetle, the parasitic brood mite, and the Asian hornet. But the biggest fear of all concerns Colony Collapse Disorder.
And what the fuck is that CCD thing?
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a recently-observed but little-understood phenomenon in which worker bees from a colony or hive abruptly disappear, and the colony dies. It may be due to stress, or viruses, or a combination of both, or other causes. It began to be noticed in the US in the autumn of 2006 and the spring of 2007, and was thought to be devastating bee colonies in more than 20 states, but enormous uncertainty still surrounds the condition, as hives and colonies can collapse for other reasons, especially during the winter. CCD is thought to have been detected in several countries of continental Europe [in 2008! -AG], but not yet in Britain. Beekeepers are on tenterhooks.
So, we don't know what the fuck is going on.
Bees just die off, a colony at a time.
Times of Malta, Sunday, 2nd January 2011.
At the beginning of last month, the EU directorate for health and consumers issued a communication on the welfare of the honey bee to the European Parliament and Council.
Since 2003 there have been reports in Europe and the US of serious losses of bees from beehives. This has caused concern around the world, as over 80 per cent of wild flowers and 84 per cent of crops depend on insect pollination to reproduce.
That was Malta, now for Germany...
SPIEGEL International, 03/22/2007:
Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.
One thing is certain: Millions of bees have simply vanished. In most cases, all that's left in the hives are the doomed offspring. But dead bees are nowhere to be found -- neither in nor anywhere close to the hives.
The Sunday Times, February 1, 2009, UK again...
Midwinter. In a garden not far from the sea in Plymouth, there is a splash of pale sunlight and a sound both familiar and strange. Familiar, because if we close our eyes and think of English gardens it’s the sound that fills our heads. Strange, because now it should be silent.
The drone of a bee.
“The” bee, of course, is a gross oversimplification. There are many species of bumble as well as of honeybee. Or there were. In the bounteous days of teeming hedgerows and fields of clover, Britain had 25 kinds of bumble, all merrily gathering nectar and pollinating plants and trees. Three of these already have vanished, and seven more are in the government’s official Biodiversity Action Plan (Uk Bap) as priorities for salvation.
It’s the same right across Europe, and the reasons everywhere are the same — changes in agricultural practice that have replaced historic mixed farmscapes with heavily industrialised monocultures in which wild animals and plants are about as welcome as jackals in a pie factory. Insects in particular have been targets of intense chemical warfare. We are, at the eleventh hour, learning from our mistakes, but patching nature back together again is exponentially more difficult than blowing it apart.
Most people do now get the point about honeybees. Following the multiple crises that continue to empty the hives — foulbrood, varroa mites, viral diseases, dysfunctional immune systems, and now the mysterious but globally devastating colony-collapse disorder (CCD) — it is understood that the true value of Apis mellifera lies not so much in the sticky stuff that gives our favourite insect its name as in the service it provides as a pollinator of farms and gardens. If you add retailers’ profit to farm gate prices, their value to the UK economy is in the region of £1 billion a year, and 35% of our diet is directly dependent on them. It is an equation of stark simplicity. No pollination: no crops. There is nothing theoretical about it. The reality is in (or, more accurately, not in) the hives. The US has lost 70% of its honeybee colonies over the past two winters. Losses in the UK currently are running at 30% a year — up from just 6% in 2003.
Einstein is supposed to have said:
If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination ... no more men!
Thank goodness I am an atheist - otherwise I would be mumbling nervously about the end times.