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Immigration issues have no quick fix

Thursday, May 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:37 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Where are all the bees going?

These members of the insect family Apoidea with broad bodies and four wings are communitarian colonists that gather nectar and pollen.

They have a propensity to swarm and occasionally to get under a person’s bonnet.

This newspaper has informed us that there is a mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in Missouri that may be the cause of a serious reduction in the bee population. It seems some kind of fungus is on a rampage — starting in Europe and Asia — and it may be wiping out bees all across America.

Possibly it is related to global warming, but scientists have yet to make a connection.

But researchers have been busy, bent on blowing open this baffling bee problem. This unknown fungus theory is one that offers the greatest hope.

But California biochemist Joe DeRisi has called the results “highly preliminary” (is that like pre-boarding an airplane?), and there is no reason for anybody to think the problem is solved.

It is true that others have found this fungus, a single-cell parasite known as Nosema ceranae in American hives. They have also found two other fungi and a half-dozen viruses in dead trees. It is not known how the trees died.

Diana Cox-Foster and some 60 other bee researchers swarmed upon Washington, D.C., recently and announced they hadn’t ruled out other factors such as inadequate food resources and pesticides. “There are lots of stresses these bees are experiencing,” Cox-Foster proclaimed.

Some researchers believe the bees went out foraging and became too weak to return to their hives. Undoubtedly the fungus got them. This is all very sad. Did you ever see a weak bee, just sitting on a clover, gazing nowhere and going nowhere? I recall, when I was a boy, cupping my hands and lifting the poor critters up for a moment or two in the alien warmth of a foreign ecosystem. They were the greatest generation of bees in those days. They were all friendly and well-behaved, especially outside their hives. Now we have angry bees and even killer bees crossing the Rio Grande into the United States. Considering what might have been, maybe the current crop of weak bees is a good thing.

It is my theory that intermarriage between these foreign angry bees and our own red-blooded American bees is at the root of the new problem. At the beginning of the current bee demise we had early signs of danger. For example, a couple in Montana is said to have noticed erratic flying of a bee near Helena, and a man in New Mexico found two bees living like spiders in a web. This is definitely proof of something.

And bees have had a big impact on our language, and I will belabor the point. Bees behave badly because, besides being beneficial and beguiling, they belittle other insects like beetles and behemoths like cows and horses. There are so many “bee” words.

What I think our government should do is to build a kind of firewall between Mexico and the U.S. — a kind of benign barrier — that would keep the little critters below the border where they belong. The dangerous bees could not get in and we could continue to enjoy the honey and friendliness of the American bees.

Without befogging the issue, let me say that I don’t begrudge the intrusive foreign ants. I just think they should stay at home. But, then, if we build a firewall, we are opening ourselves up to another danger: the mean-spirited, little fire ants known to exist in the lower reaches of the Western Hemisphere.

Maybe we had best just learn to live with all the insects.


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