A quick glance at this category shows that most of the posts relate to space (space! w00t!), evolution, gadgets (gadgets! w00t!), and a smattering of geeky in-jokes. And while I may not have put topics such as Bird Flu under this category, I’ve definitely blogged about various environmental and epidemiological topics as well.
In these outlying cases, it’s been because the politics surrounding the story was, from my perspective, more consequential than the science content; 30-second science blogging came about as a way to provide short-form link blogging on random science and technology tidbits that simply struck my fancy. No politics, and little-to-no commentary beyond a usual summation of “How cool is that?”
But today’s link isn’t about gee-whiz, where’s my flying car tech or science. It’s a piece in Science News Online about what is being called “Colony Collapse Disorder” – mass die-offs of honeybee colonies.
I’ve been following the whole story with more than a little personal interest – my dad is a beekeeper. Not on a large scale, mind you – I think at his largest, he’s had maybe two- or three-dozen hives going. It’s been a long time since I put on a bee veil and fired up a smoker, but I have a fair amount of first-hand knowledge about the ins and outs of hive ecology, and the Science News Online piece does an excellent job covering some of the current research on CCD:
It’s a good mystery all right, with any number of hypothetical culprits: mites, bad bee food, cell phones, bee AIDS, pesticides, genetically modified (GM) crops, overwork. Jeff Pettis, based in Beltsville, Md., as head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s network of laboratories devoted to bees, even suggested to the Washington Post that bees had worn themselves out making crop circles, thus explaining two mysteries at once.
Joking aside, Pettis, his government-bee-lab colleagues, Lipkin, and other researchers have been working in earnest on the problem. So far, they’ve eliminated several hypotheses. Now, they’re mixing old-fashioned case study epidemiology with modern genetics. It now looks, says Pettis, as if “more than one factor may be coming together” in the mystery of the missing honeybees.
As news spread about the trouble last winter, bells rang for memories of past cases of honeybee-hive disasters, says Jay Evans of USDA’s Beltsville, Md., bee lab. He cites a 1975 paper titled “Disappearing disease of honey bees” in the American Bee Journal. That report cited the paper “Bees evaporated: A new malady” in an issue of Gleanings in Bee Culture from 1897. These old reports raise the possibility that a bee pathogen is always lurking in hives but occasionally flares up in an especially virulent form. “It could be like the Spanish flu,” says Evans. Flu is ever present, but the legendary 1918 epidemic killed an estimated 25 million people worldwide.
I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a ‘How cool is that?’ moment in the piece – it just isn’t that kind of an article. On the other hand, it’s a well-written, sober article highlighting the importance of basic, well-conducted science. And in my book, that’s always cool.