When I first saw in a headline somewhere that the earth’s population of honeybees was diminishing, I actually thought it might be a good thing.

Less bee stings.

I cannot count the number of patients I have seen (particularly males young enough to harbor delusions of their own vulnerability) who list bee sting allergies as a problem.

I always tell them to make sure they carry an EpiPen with them (in the pick-up truck which they invariably drive) so they can save their own life, dramatically extracting themselves from the jaws of death and have a really neat story to tell.

Only about 1% of the population is allergic to bees. Anaphylactic Shock can happen in people with other serious allergic reactions, or even no previous problems, but it is hard for a woman like me to warn the entire world. (Bless you, Internet!)

Here is a more humanistic approach from the media, about dealing with life with severe allergic reactions. I am not exactly a naturalist, for I clearly prefer the human species to all others. But I do know that bees die when they sting a human. I also know that psychologically they are not terrorists (unlike suicide bombers) so they really do not sting easily.

The bee beard is a stunt. The intrepid beekeeper attaches a queen bee below the chin and other bees are attracted by the smell and are more interested in sitting quietly than stinging.

Nevertheless, I do NOT recommend the bee beard experience.

Here is an account by a veteran of same.

And by a critic. The United States is losing its honeybee population. We are now at about half of what it was right after World War II, and it is continuing to decline at about 30% a year.

This is a Very Bad Thing, and we cannot afford to let it go on much more.

This is because pollination of flowers by bees is how plants naturally reproduce. We either eat the plants or our livestock eats these plants. Those little old honeybees are keeping us alive by feeding us.

It has been estimated they are responsible for 1/3 of our food, but frankly, it looks to me as if it is probably more.

This is not an altruistic endeavor. These little guys seem to get enough protein from the pollen and enough other things from nectar that they live healthy happy bee-lives.

Pollination is a crucial process.

People seem to enjoy talking about it and taking charge of it mainly because it is wildly funny, like talking about and taking charge of human sex, which can be a lot of fun if done correctly. I have been told by others that it can be (?bee?) fun even if you do it poorly.

If you have any doubt that this is wildly funny, check out old Saturday Night Live sketches with John Belushi and others in bee suits.

Although I do like humans better, I am enough of a naturalist to follow stories that interest me.

My husband an I saw the “Romance and Sex Life of the Date” at Shields Date Gardens in Indio, CA near Palm Springs — The perfect date movie.

I am delighted to report it can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.

Although sold to the Jewel Date Company not far away in Thermal, the wonderful date experience exists, essentially unchanged.

I am a knowledge junkie, sometimes uncovering strange realizations. It seems that there are male as well as female date palms, and pollination is required. It is also said (or was said back then) that California is the world’s largest date producer, even more than the middle-eastern countries that produced dates primordially. But how?

Manual pollination.

They actually pay young men to collect male pollen and rub it onto female flowers.

This should be a source of great national pride. I believe Americans have bested the middle-easterners economically with fearless manual sexual manipulation.

Oy!

According to at least one TED talk, there is already a vibrator used to cross-pollinate tomatoes, for if pollens are stuck on tightly — vibration is part of the process for getting things moving.

The real problem is how do we fix this and get things pollinating so that humans have food? The scientific way to attack this is to isolate the problem and solve it. That is the problem.

It is a problem and it needs solving. It is not a tree-huggers-from-the-sixties-carry-over thing, “Like, WOW, Man! Everything natural is good!” situation.

It is a real problem.

Some people think they have isolated the cause, but really, there are many causes.

Science (and medicine) have a fairly poor history of dealing with things that have multiple causes

Neonicotinoid pesticides seem to be associated with plummeting bee populations, at least in these European Studies.

Marla Spivak, from the above TED Talk Link, showed it most succinctly. If we use enough of this compound, we kill the bee. Not good.

If we use a lower dose, we intoxicate the bee and it cannot find its way home and do its bee-work of feeding itself and transferring pollen and could die anyway.

We could not keep John Belushi alive, even without the bee suit. Does anybody actually believe that we can keep bees from intoxicating themselves???

These pesticides have been banned in the European Union.

The ban is temporary. I expect there will be — there should be — more research.

This completely deals with the American objection to having the FDA ban these, as far as I am concerned.

Has nobody else noticed that this objection, in a business magazine, comes from the companies that make this kind of compound? Might there not be a teency bit of financial bias here?

The folks at the Xerces society seem like decent scientists, and have done a nice review.

They are here to protect invertebrates. Now although personally I have some troubles relating to non-humans and plenty of trouble relating to creatures who have not evolved backbones, they have reviewed the science thoroughly, and have made recommendations for specific kinds of research. (Link goes to a PDF file which must be opened or viewed with the free Adobe Acrobat viewer).

The neonicotinoids may be safer for humans and wildlife than other pesticides, but we really do need to make sure they are as safe as possible for the pollinators, too.

Of course, there is more.

Honeybees can get sick. There is lots written about the behavior of bee colonies and they do a really good job of isolating sick bees from the colony and nurturing them back to wellness. I am now officially convinced they have a better health care system then we do.

The bees don’t have to pay.

Bees are often plagued by the Varroa destructor. This is a mite that can crash a honeybee population towards autumn, sometimes kill the whole hive.

This report from North Carolina State University cites some biopesticides made from essential oils, approved by the right government folks, with high effectiveness at knocking out Varroa. Moreover, it cites that with artificial pesticide compounds in agriculture, there is a big history of the organism one is trying to get rid of going in instead to develop resistances; and consequently, flourish.

THIS, this, I relate to. This is EXACTLY what continues to go on with antibiotics in the human.

Maybe we can work more on developing some of those essential oils compounds for us.

Those nice folks at North Carolina State University generally recommend monitoring bee colonies for mites and rotating mite control agents, sticking only to those that have been approved by appropriate authorities.

This sounds analogous to recommendations for human infection.

I am, however, starting to get a little out of my depth here.

Other causes cited for the diminution in bee populations are related to plant-growing practices, and I freely admit I relate to plants even less than I do to animal species without backbones.

I can say that growing single crops instead of a variety, lack of border crops or “cover” crops like clover and alfalfa have been imputed.

There is something that sounds scary and is called “colony collapse disorder” and may be from mites or from pesticides or from something else, but nobody says for sure.

It could be viruses carried by the mites.

Some have even postulated that climate change (popularly referred to as global warming) has increased reproductive rates of some of the parasites on honeybees, but at this point such assertions seem to be more political than scientific.

Here is what our Environmental Protection Agency is doing about it — an elegant statement, but perhaps as namby-pamby as anything I have seen from a government agency.

As for the agricultural factors, and there are many, not only do I not relate to them, but they seem to vary by region.

I recall from having lived in the midwestern United States that university agricultural extension programs are a fount of (generally) free information. Different blooms and different crops may be better solutions to honeybee nourishment in different places. I’ll bet such folks are dying to be helpful in matters like this.

Individual flower growing and even beehive keeping may be a hunk of the solution. (And here is another TED talk link to give you details.)

Do what you can, as the problem is real, and the solution does not look inaccessible at all from where I am sitting.

Just do something before people suddenly are forced to attack plants with plant-vibrators, to assert (American) human control over plant sex.

Author's Bio: 

Estelle Toby Goldstein, MD is a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice in San Diego, CA.

Practicing Medicine Since 1981

In her medical career, she has studied in Europe and Canada as well as the USA. She has attended specialty training beyond medical school in the fields of general surgery, neurology and neurosurgery and psychiatry (specializing in psychopharmacology).

Experienced In Many Situations

She has worked in a variety of positions, including:

Fireman/EMT
Medical school professor
General and Orthopedic surgeon
Brain surgeon
Army Medical Corps psychiatrist
Prison psychiatrist
Community Mental Health Center staff
Consultant to a major transplant hospital
Drug researcher
“Whatever It Takes!”

She currently has her own indepenent clinic in San Diego where she is concentrating on what she calls Mind/Body medicine — or Integrative Medicine. Her practice is cash-only, doesn’t accept insurance or government payments, and she operates on the concierge, or “private doctor” practice model to give her patients the absolute best quality of care and the highest level of confidentiality.

Dr. Goldstein’s philosophy is “Whatever It Takes!” Her goal is to do everything possible to solve whatever problem she is presented. This includes seeing patients as quickly as possible — not making them wait weeks for an appointment. This includes making appointments days, nights, weekends or holidays. This includes making house-calls. And it includes using the best, most innovative treatments available — most of which are unknown to standard, mainstream doctors.

Her focus is on transitioning patients away from prescription drugs and onto natural substances. She is also a master practitioner of Emotional Freedom Technique, a powerful and dynamic form of energy psychology that usually brings quicker results than traditional psychotherapy.