April 26

The case of the disappearing bees

22  comments

Much has been made in the news lately of the disappearance of the normally ubiquitous honey bees from much of the United States. Although many people regard these little critters as more of an annoyance than anything else, insects buzzing around irritatingly at picnics, capable of administering a painful sting (which can be fatal to the severely allergic individual), bees are essential for life as we know it. Much of the agricultural produce we eat exists thanks to the pollination work of bees. A complete loss of the bee population would be catastrophic.
MD and I have had a little experience with bees. One of the investments we made (that didn’t particularly pay off – in fact, we’re probably two of the only people who haven’t made money on California real estate) was in a 20 acre avocado orchard mike-md.jpgon a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. (This picture of us sitting on the top of this orchard with the Pacific in the background on a kind of foggy day was used in an article about us several years ago in Forbes Small Business.) When we bought the property we discovered all the substantial expenses that went in to growing avocados up to and including losses from avocado rustlers, a major problem. Groups of these thieves can come in at night and clean an orchard out of several tons of fruit. To keep them out requires fences and gates and even a security service.
Avocado trees require pollination to produce fruit, and although this can be done by hand, it is most often done by bees. But you can’t count on the bees you see buzzing around all the colorful flowers all over the place in California, you have to import bees. Why? Because you need a lot of them, and because bees don’t particularly like the taste of avocado nectar. Given the choice, they will take almost anything but avocado nectar. But if you put multiple hives of them in the middle of a large orchard, then they take what they can get without having to fly a long way. Part of our uncounted-on expense was to pay the guy to bring the hives at the appropriate time of the year, tend them, then come pick them up. And bees ain’t cheap.
Now the bee people are bringing their hives, letting the bees loose, and never getting them back. Whereas before the bees would buzz around gathering pollen and bring it back to the hive, now they’re taking a powder. No one knows what’s happening to them. The avocado orchards and almond orchards (almonds are 100 percent dependent on bee pollination) are not knee deep in bee corpses, bees are not lying dead around the hives, they’ve simply disappeared. Experts are calling the situation colony collapse disorder (CCD). There is speculation that the problem could be some kind of bacteria or parasite that infects the bees. Suspicion has also fallen on a particular type of pesticide. But no one really knows what’s going on, they just know that agriculture could be in real trouble if a solution to the problem isn’t found.
The New York Times weighed in on the situation with a long article in the Science section this past Tuesday:

“There are so many of our crops that require pollinators,” said Representative Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat whose district includes that state’s central agricultural valley, and who presided last month at a Congressional hearing on the bee issue. “We need an urgent call to arms to try to ascertain what is really going on here with the bees, and bring as much science as we possibly can to bear on the problem.”
So far, colony collapse disorder has been found in 27 states, according to Bee Alert Technology Inc., a company monitoring the problem. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of America showed that 26 percent of beekeepers had lost half of their bee colonies between September and March.
Honeybees are arguably the insects that are most important to the human food chain. They are the principal pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and nuts. The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s, even as the crops that rely on them, such as California almonds, have grown. In October, at about the time that beekeepers were experiencing huge bee losses, a study by the National Academy of Sciences questioned whether American agriculture was relying too heavily on one type of pollinator, the honeybee.

It surprised me that the situation has reached the point that there are even congressional hearings on CCD in Washington, but the sentence that really jumped out at me was this one:

The number of bee colonies has been declining since the 1940s…

It caught my eye because of an something I had just read a couple of days ago. I read an article in the September 1944 issue of Popular Science on one of my favorite blogs. This article discusses all the scientific research taking place in the mid 1940s to improve on nature, which results often accomplish just the opposite. (Think: trans fats)
better-bee.jpg
Here are a few sentences sprinkled throughout the piece:

Amazing new discoveries bring improvement to nature’s masterpiece, enabling the busy little insect to do a better job for war.
…and trying to improve on nature by careful mating of selected queen bees with selected drones.
How do bee breeders help nature to produce better and better bees?

(Click here to read the entire article.)
Makes me wonder if the damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead efforts of the etymologists of the 1940s to give nature a helping hand has had anything to do with the decline of the bee population since?
As the old commercial says, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”


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  1. Yes, this country is infested by critters either accidentally imported or in some cases intentionally brought in with the idea of biologically controlling a local pest. Sadly many of the latter have liked the local conditions so much, and with no local predators, have gone on to create a much worse situation than the original problem. You would hope there are better controls these days – but the recent escape from a supposedly secure laboratory of a virus brought in to control rabbits (another feral import) before a planned program could be implemented doesn’t inspire confidence. I think in principle that GM crops (another possible factor in CCD) could be a great boon for mankind – but the question remains as to how much testing is required before they can be safely used. I know you are a big fan of government regulation 😉 but the prospect of the free market (‘responsible’ companies like Monsanto) being left entirely unconstrained is scarier still.(sorry , couldn’t resist!)
    Hi Malcolm–
    I’ll let you and Kaz fight this one out.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  2. It would be a truly horrific irony if the Western world was worrying about nukes, and Islamisists and we about our insulin secretion etc and we got offed en masse by us deading the wonderful bee.
    I spent 4 months in the Cape of South Africa working with bees on an 800 hive apiary.
    That buzzing of the so called Africa killer bees (!) filled me with such immense joy and lightness that even thinking about cracking a hive open makes me feel wonderful… and then really very sad.
    Those numbers are more than startling..give it six months more at those rates and the bee will be elevated to a species that most folks are then well acquainted with.
    And like so many things with us short term animals…it might be too late..for them and ultimately us.
    Let us sinc. hope that is not the case

  3. I just wrote a blog entry about CCD, myself, called Honeybees: BAD for Crops?
    Fortunately, much of the CCD hysteria is just that, far in excess of what it deserves even in the worst-case.
    One thing you never hear is that, even in the ridiculously unlikely event that all of the honeybees in the US died out, the list of crops not devastated by it would be even longer than the list of those that are.
    For example, ALL plants native to the Americas.
    See, honeybees are an invasive species. The “wild” honeybees that have been dying back since the seventies are actually feral bees. Before Europeans brought honeybees with them, there were none in the Americas at all.
    A small list of a fraction of the crops native to the Americas, which evolved being pollinated by other methods:
    Corn
    * Tomatoes (tomatillos, ground cherries)
    * Eggplants
    * Most beans (green beans, peas, et cetera), except broad beans
    * Most cucubits, including squash (including pumpkins)
    * Chili peppers (including green peppers, jalapenos)
    * Potatoes (and their relatives, like sweet potatoes / yams)
    * peanuts
    In fact, most of the plants native to the Americas are more efficiently pollinated by insects which have been displaced by bees, and which would recover some of their population if the bees vanished.
    So some crops will actually benefit, while others may (temporarily, since bees would of course be imported from Europe to spot-fertilize orchards and the like) indeed suffer.
    The nicotinoid pesticides, by the way, are almost certainly getting a bum rap, since where they are most used is often where the bees are not vanishing at all.
    I’d be…well, OK, I don’t find almonds terribly important when I’m not cooking rice, so I wouldn’t be all that inconvenienced. Anyway, someone would be inconvenienced by a radical price increase for almonds, and all those trendy Californians would be hysterical over a similar price hike for avocados. Personally, I think we’d be better off without broad beans. Blech.
    But, more seriously, it’s not like humanity will starve without bees, like some goofballs are saying. And there’s also no reason to assume it’d ever come to that, any more than any of the other static analysis panic that bureaucrats routinely engage in at our expense…bird flu, overpopulation, oil depletion/global warming, blah blah blah yackety smackety.
    One of the ways the old honeybees were being “improved”, by the way, was crossbreeding with African honeybees. That’s why they were routinely imported to the Americas. If there had indeed been a decline in invasive honeybee population all the way back to the 1940s (I believe it was only since the seventies, having been following this for some time), perhaps the African bee hybrids have some kind of lemming-like genetic problem that sometimes crops up. Even though official African Killer Bees [trademark: Ridiculous Hysterics Naming Association] have not reached the two coasts, because of climate, obviously their DNA could be getting there, thanks to crossbreeding.
    But that’s just my wild speculation, no more valid than the rest of the guesses that make up 100% of the proposed causes.
    I have a feeling that, like almost every time I write what seemed to be a critical response to an article of yours, it’ll turn out that we are actually in agreement on most of this.
    But the growing hysterics over CCD is quite irksome, potentially more harmful than the problem itself, as is usually the case these days. It’s SARS or the blind sheep in tierra del fuego (because of the nautral antarctic ozone thinning, except that was impossible) all over again.
    Hi Kaz–
    I don’t know enough about it to engage in an intelligent discussion.  I just thought it was interesting that the old article I found about the experts working to ‘improve’ the bees seemed to correlate with a decline in the bee population as related by the New York Times. I’ll leave it to commenters better qualified than I to fight this one out.
    Interesting blog post, though.  Thanks for the link.
    MRE 

  4. This isn’t about bees but almost 40 years ago I was stationed in Sicily. There men with shotguns would guard the orange orchards otherwise crews would come in at night and pick the orchard bare.
    I can imagine. I just read a great book called Naples ’44 about the Allied occupation of Naples in WW II. It’s unbelievable the lengths people went to then just to get something to eat.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  5. Are bees disappearing all over the world? If not, then the solution is actually quite simple : cultivate those crops that don’t require bee action and import the rest.
    Of course the free market would take care of this by itself, but I presume California isn’t exactly a free market… :{

  6. May be the workers were inspired by famous Mitsubachi Maaya no Boken cartoon and ran away from their socialist monarchy? 🙂
    Just quick thoughts:
    – breeding and GM is only a tool, it could be used for good things or bad things
    – pioneers have no chance to learn from mistakes of others
    – are we fooling Mother Nature while flying? We had evolved to walk

  7. Last week, potential pathogens were identified using technology developed for army and presumably confirmed during weekend. Link.
    Hi Martin–
    Thanks for the link.  Will be interesting to see if this proves to be the culprit.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  8. The sugarshockblog had a post on this with a link to the dallasnews. It seems they think it could be the high fructose corn syrup that is causing this. I never realized they fed HFCS to bees.
    I haven’t a clue as to what bees are fed other than the nectar from flowers.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  9. “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
    – Albert Einstein
    Thanks for the quote, Regina.  I didn’t realize that ol’ Albert knew anything about bees.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  10. How long before we get the anti-immigrant African Killer Bees are killing our hives argument? It used to be that it was a racist argument (African bees that are lazy, aggressive, and trying to force themselves on the European queens… this isn’t rocket science), but now, the can still be lazy, aggressive, trying to take the white women… er, European Queens… from south of the border and Africa… hrm, if only they were Islamic.
    I for one will miss almonds. On the flip side, all my almonds come from Spain.
    The no corpses thing is weird, isn’t it? Makes me think we have PETA people freeing these bees from Bondage or GMO people attracting them and putting them out of commission to make a point about GMO. Nah, that’s too clever.
    PETA people freeing the bees from bondage…  Although I don’t believe that the bee disappearance situation has anything to do with PETA, the whole idea sounds right up their alley.  It’s certainly stupid enough to qualify for a PETA project.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  11. Regarding the goofy ideas of past science, there’s one from that same era that may interest you:
    When billions of dollars in American taxpayer money was looted for the Marshall Plan, one of the things we did was send over “experts” to modernize (Americanize) the foreigners’ techniques, as we’re doing now under what Bush foolishly claimed would be a repeat of that “success”.
    One of the things we fixed up for the Europeans was their silly idea of intercropping and/or allowing certain specific “weeds” to grow in their fields.
    It was assumed, sort of like the 20th century obsession with a sterile household environment, that bare-earthed monocultural fields were THE efficient, scientific way to grow crops.
    But it’s just one of a long history of the supposedly scientific establishment forcing its inductive reasoning on people when it’s dead wrong.
    As you may know, intercropping and companion planting are a hot new “scientific” discovery, now. You can, for example, plant a specific “trap crop” of some other plant every Nth row in a field of cotton, soybeans, et cetera, and not only will you fight certain insect pests better than some pesticides, but of course you will do so in a more environmentally sound (at least according to conventional wisdom) way, AND save a lot of money.
    Depending on the trap crop, you may even be able to sell it for additional money, quite an improvement from endlessly spending money on insecticides.
    For gardening, this is even more true, since you hand-harvest, so mixing crops is not impractical.
    I’m no anti-tech gardener; I will mercilessly point out the flaws of organic gardening to its devotes. But I have never had to spend a penny on insecticides, nor spend much time weeding. Frankly, I sought the way to invest the very least in my garden and still get good results, and found that companion planting actually produces /better/ results than pesticides and weeding. I not only specifically choose plants to intercrop, but also am learning which weeds to simply ignore, as they are natural companion plants, or simply provide more ground cover (often called Living Mulch) than they do resource competition.
    Oh, and as a parting shot, I cite the 1960s medical theory that mothers are unhealthy for babies, and should be kept away from them as long as possible. Breast feeding was discouraged, babies were needlessly kept in isolation chambers as long as possible (an unhealthy practice that is still lingering today, although much reduced), et cetera.
    Some such nonsense from the past has not even been disavowed by the establishment yet, today. In a third example, modern medical science is starting to complain that it’s our obsession with wearing shoes that has caused the increase in foot fungus problems…yet it was the inductively-assumed “scientific” decision to force people to wear shoes in public which created this situation.
    “Health and safety” regulations, pimped by “scientists” and “doctors”, forcing all businesses and most public areas to mandate “no shirt, no shoes, no service” actually imposed the unhealthy shoe culture that now shelters the very foot fungus plague they were supposedly preventing.
    Yet those laws are still in place.
    The pseudo scientific insanity of the Kyoto treaty is not a new trend in governmental mistakes, but one as old as authoritarianism.
    Sorry, these things get me on a rant. Maybe I should use your inspiration to write up an article of my own on the topic.
    Hi Kaz–
    I think you should write on them.  All are fascinating, especially the intercropping/companion planting, which I had never heard of (not being a gardener), but which makes a lot of sense.
    Write ’em up and let me know, and I’ll link to them.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  12. Interesting…veddy, veddy interesting.
    I have to admit, I like Kaz’ streak of contrarian skepticism. Eric Scheie has a long blog post that takes a similarly gimlet-eyed look at the honeybee issue. All is probably not lost in the bee world–I think we can go back to worrying about nukes and Islamists, sad to say.
    Hi Rose–
    Thanks for the great link; I enjoyed it and learned a lot.
    But I can’t possibly go back to worrying about Islamists – at least on the pages of this blog – without being inundated with hostile comments.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  13. Kaz Hola.
    ref African Killer Bees..this is bizarre American news tripe… you are quite right I worked on an 800plus hive in the Cape of South Africa with these so called bees and they can be a bit lairy in the heat of summer but they don’t go around attacking all and sundry.
    ref being alarmist…blah blah yakety smackety/SARS/Sheep gone blind etc..in one ways i think you are right vis mass hysteria about the latest threat and in another seriously misguided.
    You’re comparing apples to oranges and even thats a wrong analogy actually as it in no ways qualifies the importance of bees globally and their foundational part in the biosphere.
    And to linearly imply that almonds or lack therof would be yr/our greatest loss is to fundamentally misunderstand how systems go awry and how those fingers of instability manifest.

  14. I hate to start a fight, but look that “Einstein” quote up on Snopes.com. There’s no record anywhere that he ever said or wrote anything like that. Snopes pretty much breaks it down, as they do a lot of internet rumors and urban legends. (Aside: I think the stories that DO turn out to be true are actually more fascinating than the ones they debunk). Link:
    http://www.snopes.com/quotes/einstein/bees.asp
    Also, I read an article recently that said increased cell phone use might be impacting the mechanism that bees use to navigate. I’ll try to post the link:
    http://www.technewsworld.com/rsstory/56901.html
    Interesting that they use the Einstein quote, too, as Bill Maher did recently, too. I wonder if it’ll turn out like the story about Super Bowl Sunday being “the biggest day of the year for violence against women.” Link:
    http://www.snopes.com/crime/statistics/superbowl.asp
    Hi Bob–
    An earlier commenter posted this to yet another blog post questioning the existence of the Einstein quote. If you follow the links in this post you come upon a post by Glenn Reynolds, whom I read occasionally, complaining about the shifting content of wikis (where many people go to snag quotes) and his less than stellar opinion of them:

    This is why wikis suck. That quote has been there for years — then I link it [a quote attributed to Freud] and it vanishes. I think the quote’s real — at least I’ve seen it elsewhere before. But either the quote was bogus when I linked it — which means that wikiquote sucks — or the quote was real and has been deleted/marked as misattributed for political reasons — which means that wikiquote sucks. And there’s no obvious indication that it’s changed since I cited it. Which means that wikiquote sucks.

    Cheers–
    MRE

  15. Bees have to be fed something other then the honey they produce as that is typically harvested by the bee grower. HFCS is one of the sugars that are fed to bees so the HFCS angle is possible.

  16. I’m surprised that you didn’t point out that MD is side by side with you in this photo. Especially since usually you keep her in the back to make her look thinner!
    Amazing what I learn from your blog. Even more amazing what I learn from the comments!
    Maybe dealing with the mass of comments will get easier over time. Once you’ve exhausted all your knowledge and theories you can just provide the link to each comment…. it shouldn’t take too much longer. 😉

  17. I have no idea whether the Einstein quote is accurate, but I think it’s more important to address the logic of the point made argumentum ad verecundiam, not worry about the actual authority to whom they’re appealing.
    If Einstein said that, it’s just proof that even the most notoriously smart people can say dumb things. It’s not like he was an entymology/agricultural expert. I was quite disappointed by his writings on philosophy.
    As for the question of the bees’ importance in the biosphere, they’re quite important in their native environments, to the native plants…but there isn’t the slightest hint of them being in an erg of danger in that capacity.
    I hope I don’t qualify as one of the hostile commentators, RE “Islamists”. Although I am likely to be, as someone put it, “contrarian” about that, mainly out of the “equal time” perspective of feeling like it’s overdone enough in neocon culture already. Even “Islamist” originates among the hatemongers who’re trying to create another -ist to dehumanize and treat as monolithically evil. Since you (Dr. Eades) clearly do agree with how two-sided the issue is, RE my diatribe on how culpable we are for our part, surely you find dislike for such typification unsurprising.
    On the other hand, why on earth would you be concerned with nay-saying replies to your blog posts? Those are the best sign that you’re having an impact. It’s akin to how publicists measure success by how much hate mail you receive; the truly worthless stuff gets ignored, not hated.
    One should take angry replies as (A) an opportunity to show the flaw in the opposing side’s argments or (B) an opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes, to the limited extent that one’s critics are actually (gasp) correct, and/or are pointing out a mistake one actually made, whether rhetorical or logical.
    Personally, I could use some pissed-off retorts in reply to my blog entries, to liven things up a bit.
    Hi Kaz–
    It’s not the pissed-off retorts to my blog that I mind.  Nor is it the replies that contradict or argue with whatever it is that I happen to say.  The problem is that all the pissed-off retorts and long, long arguments come about political or social issues I’ve posted on.  I could simply post these comments as they come in and be done with it.  But, since I’ve gotten into the habit of responding to most posts, the lack of a response would imply that I have simply agreed with whomever wrote the comment taking me to task for my post.  Then I write a long reply (long because most of these comments are long) arguing my position, which then inspires the commenter to write back and even longer reply.  Then I feel compelled to reply to that.  My problem is one of time.  I can’t spend all day engaged in debate with people over political or sociological issues, when I’m not an expert in either one.  Nor, I’m sure, are the people who are commenting.  It’s all opinion.
    My expertise is in nutrition.  I have a number of thoughtful posts I would like to make on issues in which I have real expertise and in which what I have to say makes a difference.  But I spend so much time in debate over non-nutritional issues that I run out time to deal with the nutritional issues.
    I’m left with a couple of choices.  I can post my political thoughts on a particular issue just as a way of saying, hey, this is how I feel about this.  Then anyone who wants to disagree can comment, and I’ll simply post the comment as written with no rebuttal on my part.
    Or I can stick strictly to nutritional issues and never post anything of a politically or sociologically controversial nature.
    But I don’t want to do the latter, because I find issues all the time that I want to post on, and it’s my frigging blog, so I’m gonna post on them.   So, I guess that if I don’t want to quit posting occasionally on political issues, and if I don’t want to have all my time eaten up in debate over them, I’ll opt for the first option and simply post the responses as they come in.  If readers want to fight it out amongst themselves, I’ll be happy to provide a forum for them in the comments section, but count me out as a combatant if you want to read about more of the stuff that I have to say that really matters.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  18. The idea of being limited to a specific expertise is an ugly, recent (altough it happened, separately, in the past) development.
    Intelligent people are better than that. They are perfectly capable of being “renaissance men”, with strong knowledge of a wide range of subjects, and being well-informed and opinionated on almost everything they find important.
    We might not all be Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Da Vinci, or Isaac Asimov…but we can certainly move in the same general direction, to whatever extent our abilities allow.
    There’s absolutely nothing to stop someone from being a professional whatever, yet also being an autodidactic expert in economics, music, chess, sociology, furniture building, and anything else, at the same time.
    Your knowledge of medicine, at the very least, has clearly translated as an understanding of the logic and processes necessary for the sciences, which allows you to rationally criticize any scientific debate. In a sense, socio-political subjects are just a different set of logic and methodology, one that seems to still be best learned spontaneously, instead of academically. No reason for anyone to not consider himself as informed as every expert on those topics, if he’s willing to take the time to ensure he actually is.
    Hell, I’m teaching myself physics, right now. Nothing’s off-limits, really.
    Hi Kaz–
    I ended up teaching myself physics as well.  I actually took a couple of classes in college, but I may as well have not been there for what little I learned.  When you go to school to learn, you have to take what you get professor-wise.  When you teach yourself, you can turn to the best minds around–at least the ones who have written on the subject.
    But learning basic Newtonian physics and being able to understand a little quantum mechanics and work through the development of some of Einstein’s ideas (which is actually fairly easy and a lot more fun than I thought it would be) does not a physicist make.  Same with a doctor, a lawyer, a mathematician, or virtually any other field.  It’s like the difference between being able to say a few words in a foreign language and being totally fluent.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for autodidactery.  In fact, the more the better.  But it takes a long, long time to become truly skilled in a field, and, as I wrote before, what I have to say about physics carries much less weight than what I have to say about nutrition and medicine because I’ve spent the last 20+ years working on the latter and a few months of bedtime reading working on the former.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  19. Oh, but I do agree about the whole debate thing…I shouldn’t even be writing these long diatribes on your blog, even at 100wpm it ends up being time I could have spent doing something else.
    But I think such discussions are worthwhile, if only we could afford the time to engage in them…society grows more from such debate than from any bureaucratic, organized means, formal education coming to mind as an example of the latter.
    Society has undergone several information revolutions…the classical era, renaissance, enlightenment, and the current Information Revolution being examples. And, in each case, it was the widening of debate and opinionation to encompass more participants that was at the core, although always facilitated by some new information technology (literacy in the classical era, the restoration of literacy when the crusaders brought Arabic translations of the classical philosophers back to spark the Renaissance, the printing press for the Enlightenment, and now the Internet).
    Debate, as much as you have time to, and consider yourself a modern Renaissance man on every topic you can master, and be proud of it.
    Hi Kaz–
    I understand your point.  And I do consider myself something of a Renaissance man, but the depth of knowledge on most topics right now is so vast that it requires much time and study to master much of anything, otherwise one is simply a dilettante.  Maybe a Renaissance dilettante, but a dilettante nevertheless.  There are many opinions one can have on religion, politics, sociology, etc, but they are just that: opinions.  My opinion on whether Bush is a swine or is one hell of a president or is somewhere in between is meaningless.  I can argue until I’m blue in the face (and at about 40 wpm on a good day it takes me a while) and will accomplish nothing but annoying those who disagree with me.  I won’t change anyone’s life.
    If, however, I simply post my thoughts (that Bush is a swine, is a helluva guy, whatever), then let those that give a flip argue over it, and spend my time posting on subjects that can change a person’s life and/or health, I would say that was a better use of my energies.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  20. OK, one more quick comment on this aging thread, then I’ll stop bugging you about it:
    As when I was dismissing the question of whether Einstein said humanity would die out without bees as irrelevant, I actually believe (and therefore assert here) that the arguments of all people are of equal value, at least in regards to their authority on the topic.
    All of the value in someone’s argument, as far as I’m concerned, comes from the argument, itself. If my favorite living economist, Walter Williams, makes a specific argument, or a particularly stupid (and I don’t simply mean uninformed) third grader down the street makes the same point using the same (however more poorly worded) logic, they are identically valid.
    Not because of some kind of irrationalist subjectivism on my part, but because it’s the logic, itself, that matters. This is why argumentum ad vericundiam, or for that matter the opposite and more famous argumentum ad hominem, are fallacies. WHO says a thing is irrelevent to the validity of their logical argument.
    In fact, while I respect your twenty years of effort, learning, and experience in medicine, when I read your medical posts it is purely your reasoning that I am concerned with. If you don’t convince me with your logic and facts, then your documentary authority is irrelevent. Likewise if you post about Bush being a political genius and/or sociopathic threat to American well-being, the value will be in your arguments, not your authority.
    This is probably a good thing not only because (I argue) it is the correct way of examining all knowledge, but also because otherwise you’d be screwed: “Medical experts” (et allum) with far more experience and fancier credentials than you disagree with most of what you would bother blogging about here. Which is why you bother writing it, of course. It’s a good thing I (we) examine their arguments, then yours, and conclude YOU are correct, despite their forty years of medical experience and six PhDs.
    /chuckle
    I refuse to remove the phrase “quick comment” from the top of this post…it shows that even I appear to be fallible.
    I agree that arguments should be based on their merits, not on the credentials of the arguer.  But, I’m more likely ot listen to someone who has mega-credentials than someone who is uneducated on a subject in which the person with the mega-credentials is an expert.  The uneducated person could be right, however, and the mega-credential-er wrong, but I wouldn’t bet it that way.  The uneducated (let’s say self-educated) person has a higher barrier to overcome to get his arguments heard, but if he makes them valid enough, then he’ll be heard, and may even change the world as Einstein did in his annus mirabilis 1905 with his five famous papers.  It’s hard to realize that at the time Einstein burst onto the scene, he was a total unknown, given up by his academic peers as a failure.
    Cheers–
    MRE 

  21. hi,
    this is a little off the point, but i would be so grateful if anyone can answer this and make a reply directly as well as to the comment board.
    my husband and i have recently taken on the running of a fruit farm in the south of Portugal. it mainly consists of 500 avocado and 500 orange trees. I was excited about the prospect of introducing bees, especially with the urgent need for these precious beings at our time in history.
    It was disappointing to read that bees do not like the avocado nector but i wonder if anyone knows anything about the best companion plants for avocado trees. perhaps these plants can provide pollen that the bees like and thus encourage the bees to stay around. if not can anyone point me ina direction that would assist. thank you.
    venus
    Hi Venus–
    I’ll put it out there for anyone to answer.  I don’t know the answer.  We always used bees.  I can tell you that the bees will preferentially go for the orange trees instead of the avocado trees, so you may have to resort to hand pollination.  But don’t take my word for it; I would contact someone knowledgeable and trustworthy in your own area for advice.
    Good luck.
    MRE 

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