Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Interesting article in the Times about decreases in pollinator populations, specifically bees. This has been a long-standing concern amongst agricultural scientists. The article cites viruses or exhaustion from mismanagement by beekepers as possible reasons for 30-60% offseason loss rates of bees. In my understanding, the causes of pollinator population decreases are somewhat unclear. Suspects include habitat fragmentation, invasion by exotic plants (which decrease off-season pollination options for certain pollinators), viruses, parasites, toxic pollutants and others. People usually write off bees, on account of their being small and stinging people and shilling for Cheerios. However, with the large amount of artificial fertilizers in use today, many agricultural systems are "pollinator limited" by virtue of lack of bees.

Maybe you should talk to them in Spanish

I used to work as a tech at Princeton University, conducting a study about pollinator diversity as it relates to land use. Pollinators are either specific to certain hosts or they are host-unspecific AKA "generalist." This relationship between pollinators and flowers has led biologists to study this interaction intensively- it is rich in examples of various evolutionary phenomena such as co-evolution, mutualism and interspecific competition. Thus, there is a large volume of research to draw on, going all the way back to Darwin's hypothesis that there must be a moth with a proboscis capable of getting into the foot-long nectary of a Malagasy orchid (such a moth was discovered in the 20th century). However, the range of suspects seems so large as to imply that nobody is quite sure what is going on.

As a well-rounded person, grounded in the very much parallel fields of science and late 1990s rap music, I would like to offer my professional opinion as to the solution:

I would say there's about a 75% chance this could all be cleared up by playing Cobra Clutch at high volume during the growing season.

[NYTimes: Where my beez at?]

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