Hand pollination is possible, of course, but that seems like such a pita. Perhaps it's possible to automate.
We have a perfectly good, self optimizing system that constantly moves to optimality. If we could just lighten up a little, not push quite so hard, or even just do localized trials of intensive use pesticides and fertilizers, we could find a balance of what the system can support.
Either go slow and look for local optimizations that are then distributed widely, or engineer immunity, or both.
Ugh. I guess if it was easy, it wouldn't be a problem.
You must be kidding. I can't think of many things that would less possible to do by hand.
We have 10 acres which is mostly in manuka (i.e. manuka honey), spaced a metre apart from each other. When I stand next to any one of those trees and watch the bees flitting hither and thither doing their thing, I am just amazed by nature.
When they are gone, so are we.
Bigger, more profitable yeilds is not what we should be focusing on. Saving the bees and humanity in the process is slightly more important imho
Sure, no more bees would be a very, very bad news. But humans are a pretty hardy specie. First, we are omnivores. Second, we have conquered the whole planet and live in huge numbers. And third, we are really smart.
Besides cosmic scale events, I don't think of many scenarios that could damage humanity beyond recovery.
The authors of the FAO analysis concluded that the proportion of global food production
attributable to animal pollination ranges from 5% in industrialized nations to 8% in the developing world.
It _may_ not be caused by the pesticide, changing or stopping the use of the pesticide could not be necessary and then we would have accidentally saved the world while having less profit.
How do you know this? Because of the possibility (and it will always exist) of something else able to harm bees we should take no action?
> "we don't know how to save all the bees"
Is this forgone conclusion? Sounds like you are begging the question 
I am reminded of, http://i.imgur.com/couhw4k.jpg
Edit: I definitely didn't say that we should take no action.
Edit2: If you're asking "what else has been killing bees en masse", here's a list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder
It is highly unlikely any of you have tasted "all natural" vanilla as 99% of food products in the super market utilize an artificial version of the same critical flavor compound found in the plant: vanillin.
Vanilla plantations do not have the capacity to satisfy the worlds' demand with or without insect pollination.
Vanilla beans appear to be about $6-7 each retail and $4-5 wholesale according to these random websites, despite there apparently being a bean shortage currently:
Additionally, Haagen-Dazs, a mass-market brand, offers ice cream with real vanilla:
I sincerely doubt that it's "highly unlikely" that most people have tasted real vanilla in their lifetimes.
Also thanks for specifying the price of individual beans. If you calculate the price per pound you will see that it fluctuates,.. last I heard they were $600 per pound. Just to let you know, when people go shopping for vanilla beans, most people don't buy one bean at a time, they buy it by weight because each bean can have a different weight, FYI.
"We could hand pollinate, but that would really suck."
"OMG how could you say that, hand pollination would be awful!"
But on the upside, >= 80% labor participation rate!
The best example of hand pollination is China where the entire bee population is basically decimated. Almost all of Chinas' farms ALREADY use hand pollination.
Corn, rice and wheat wind pollinate (along with a lot of other grains).
So most calorie production doesn't depend on insect pollination. Vegetables and fruits tend to though.
Wage costs I'm sure would be an issue. Sounds like a crazy idea, but can't we just stop using pesticides that have provably been shown to harm a critical part of our food chain? I don't particularly care if Bayer loses profit, or if I have to pay a more realistic price for fruit and veg.
We could, but there is money lost in the process. Both for the people who produce, but also consumers. This needs regulation to become a reality.
This just broke my brain.
I think it's time for me to go to bed...
It's so amazing that we all think differently :)
However it's already a self-sufficient efficient eco system only if we could stop deliberately destroying.
What happens when birds try to eat the fake bees? What happens when they break? Do we just leave them there? What would their batteries made of? Any dangerous material Lithum is not something you want on your water supply
That's why we need robotic birds.
Perhaps you can say evolution is accidental, without intention. Quite a happy accident in my opinion.
EDIT: Here.... let me google up an example.
Honeybees are suffering from multiple problems including outbreaks of disease and parasites. Even without pesticide they would be doing bad.
Anecdotally bumble bees are a very common sight here. And I'm surrounded by fields that are sprayed often.
Do you have a source for how significant this factor is? I would like to believe it, but it sounds a lot like wishful thinking.
I'd also note that many native bees also have a much shorter lifecycle - they will be active for a very brief time at a very specific time of the year, when their target plants are flowering, and then they lay their eggs, which will remain dormant / develop slowly for nearly the full year, to hatch again at the appropriate time. This means that you can successfully avoid killing them by timing your pesticide application to avoid flowering plants. Honeybees, on the other hand, are active year round (though confined to their hives in the winter).
A larger threat mentioned in the talk to native bees was actually global warming. Many native bees operate in narrow bands of latitude, only going so far north and south. With the increases in average temperature, we're seeing the southern border of many native bee species move north ... but for whatever reason, not the northern border. I'm not sure why that would be (maybe there are plant species they depend on which spread too slowly?), but it creates a worrisome picture of their habitat being squeezed out of existence.
It would be interesting to know "If I were to survive 100% only on native (pre-EURO/Colonizers) food-stuffs, what would my diet look like?"
Looks like corn, wheat, soybeans, and potatoes, are safe. So you can still have your burger, fries, and Coke. ;-)
A quick Google reveals that almonds do indeed require a lot of bees, in addition to water.
I mean, I know (from recent reading) that there's a fairly intensive operation to maintain hives exclusively for almond farming. Are you saying these are not affected by CCD, neonics, or whatever?
See https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/how-to-g... and various other coverage.
I think the EPA should be allowed to err on the side of caution. Their job should be to regulate chemicals and practices for the protection of the environment. It isn't mistake to prevent a company from harming the env. I'd like the logic to be inverted; Everything that interacts with the environment should be guilty until proven benign. Default to deny. As we get more technologically advanced, the number of mistakes that can only-happen-once is ever increasing.
I'm sure you can find specific farming practices that are beneficial to bees, but I don't think you can make a good faith argument that i.e. pesticides are the reason there are large numbers of bees.
No one is arguing that we should throw out all of modern farming practices, so there's no need to jump to their defense.
Can you expand on this? I've been thinking about getting a hive and coincidentally was wondering about this earlier today -- can you let a hive swarm without losing it? I.e. does a spritely new queen take half the hive with her? Is it healthier for the hive to do so?
Now about hive health. There is this thing called Varroa and if you let the hive swarm half of it goes with the swarm and the other half stays. Varroa I mean. What is really good with swarming is that the hive now has a virgin queen and she doesn't lay eggs right away and a lot of Varroa dies off because they can't reproduce. They need eggs and bee larvae to do so. The swarm with old queen has an interruption as well because they need to build comb and cells where the queen lays eggs.
In my beekeeping years ago I kept hives healthy ( fight against Varroa ) entirely with letting them swarm.
Just to write it once again since by your writing I think you are confused...Old queen leaves with the swarm.
Although I must say that natural swarms show greater vigor when building new comb than splits. Even packaged bees built faster than splits. That is of course my experience and you have to keep in consideration that I didn't add any foundation to new colonies so that was maybe one of the reasons. I let them build their own comb on a narrow strip in the frame/top bar and never tried with full foundation.
We may be on the edge of a new wave of a more organic farming, on a mass scale. Using plant communities and synergies to reduce or need for the more simplistic, mass application of chemicals.
Without even getting into all the genetic engineering and the like that is sure, however you feel about it, to continue.
If you have a bot passing through every couple of days, would they continue to visit the rest of the field where the bot is not currently present?
Very interesting factor to consider and be concerned about.
(Example: FarmBot https://farmbot.io/ )
I can't find a great page to link to, but this has a decent, short description of what they are doing:
> Trees, shrubs, vines, canes, perennial plants and fungi are planted in association with one another to produce food (for humans and animals), fuel, medicines, and beauty. Hazelnuts, chestnuts, walnuts and various fruits are the primary woody crops. The farm is entirely solar and wind powered and farm equipment is powered with locally produced biofuels that are not taken from the human food chain.
The part that interests me is, they can grow half as much of a crop per acre as a monoculture, but they can do it for like 10 different crops in the same area.
And they don't have to spray it with poison, so there are cool things like tree frogs out there.
There had been more competing pollinators.
The almond is a species of tree native to the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and North Africa.
The extremely cynical interpretation is that Bayer patented the first neonic in 1985 and the major one (Imidacloprid) is now off-patent.
Bayer would probably love it to be banned, so that everyone has to switch to some newer, less tested, more patent protected discovery of theirs.
I know that you are using the word pesticide, but the insecticide is question... would kill insects like bees?
FDA panel found the link, they recommended stopping the chemical.
The head of FDA pocketed the research/recommendation in his desk until "further".
It was half a billion dollar industry of which that guy got a piece of the money through some channel.
USA had to import bees from Australia.
EU banned the set of chemicals
My grandfather, after 50 years of bee keeping lost half of the swarms, until we figured out what's happening and what's killing them.
Lobbying shoduld be made illegal.
That being said, I'd like to see the results replicated independently. As there article points out, there are a bunch of asterisks in the claims... and a lot of conflicting conclusions.
Use the correct term pointed out to me
(I know, I used to think “pesticide” meant it killed creatures, but plants are also pests.)
The correct comment should be: This article is about a specific class of insecticide, not a herbicides.
Coincidently, I learned that Neonicotinoids means 'chemically similar to nicotine', I thought that was a coincidence at first.
What I haven't been able to figure out is if there was essentially a "second wave" of nicotinoids that someone -- a scientist or marketer -- figured was deserving of the "neo-" prefix.
"Do Neonics Hurt Bees? Researchers and the Media Say Yes. The Data Do Not. " at
wherein they state:
"One problem: The data in the paper (and hundreds of pages of supporting data not included but available in background form to reporters) do not support that bold conclusion. No, there is no consensus evidence that neonics are “slowly killing bees.” No, this study did not add to the evidence that neonics are driving bee health problems."
"But based on the study’s data, the headline could just as easily have read: “Landmark Study Shows Neonic Pesticides Improve Bee Health”—and it would have been equally correct."
Jon Entine is a media-savvy corporate propagandist and pseudo-journalist who fronts the opinions and positions of chemical corporations by pretending to be an independent journalist. He has ties to biotech companies Monsanto and Syngenta while playing a key role in another industry front group known as the American Council on Science and Health, a thinly-veiled corporate front group that Sourcewatch describes as holding “a generally apologetic stance regarding virtually every other health and environmental hazard produced by modern industry, accepting corporate funding from Coca-Cola, Kellogg, General Mills, Pepsico, and the American Beverage Association, among others.”
That Slate are engaged with a special partnership with Entine's propaganda mill speaks exceedingly poorly of Slate.
Specific to the Slate article, Entine claims that bee populations aren't dying. The supporting link is to an article that states ... bee populations are dying, and where they aren't dying and leaving corpses behind, they are simply vanishing without a trace. Sadly for Mr. Entine's argument, neither death nor disappearance makes for a health bee colony. He's attempting to mislead, misdirect, and language-lawyer his way around a point. He fails.
I've encountered him previously. Ironically, if his propagandistic techniques weren't so over-the-top self-parodying, he might have snuck past my bullshit filter.
Ironic as those attacks were polished and perfected by the Libertarian / Free Market Fundamentalism crowd, as well documented by Robert Proctor, Naomi Oreskes, and others.
The substance of that particular article: Entine's defence of the now largely deprecated chemical bysphenol A, a/k/a BPA, an endocrine disruptor.
"based on other evidence -- largely from animal studies -- the FDA expressed "some concern" about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children."
Entine's own stock in trade is largely reputation attacks, smears, and playing loose, if at all, with the facts.
Again: first time I came across him, my first response was neutral. But that (and the Slate) article are so content-free and slippery that my hackles went up. That paid off.
Even my biotech friends are coming around to that viewpoint (having been initially critical).
firstname.lastname@example.org is the email address.
I like this approach: the harm done by not being able to use these pesticides for a while, were they to turn out to not be harmful, would surely be outweighed by the risk of further harming the ecosystem.
Not sure about other jurisdictions but UK patent law allows an invention to be worked for research purposes.
Presumably companies don't get licenses to produce chemicals for widespread release to the environment without disclosure of the details, so trade secrets shouldn't be a problem?
Bollocks! Neonics harm bees because that is what they are designed to do - break insects. I'm not an expert but there have been rather a lot of articles in New Scientist describing "confused" bees relating to neonics over the last few years.
Threshold and compound effects are not unknown in science.
Though given a comment on funding sources (Bayer and Sygenta -- formerly Zeneca), some skepticism may be warranted.
the last paragraph is rather enlightening...
A 5 minute walk in fields around me will lead to at least 3 ticks latching on. We're now facing the Lone Star tick that causes a life threatening meat allergy (wtf) and Lyme's disease. I've also personally reported one of the first cases of West Nile virus in this state from a found dead bird. Now there's Zika, which seems great for humans. Oh and we can't forget the re-proliferation of bed bugs as well. But yeah, we should keep trusting the newer classes of pesticides that don't work as well and haven't been studied as thoroughly.
(IMHO, DDT should be allowed for mosquito nets, as long as they are only used indoors and people know to incinerate the old nets instead of throwing them out. It is so darn effective and we were so boneheaded stupid the first time around.)
Ugh, noted. Thanks for the correction. I am aware of some resistance among specific mosquito species as well, but the residual repellant effect still makes it crazy useful for application on screens, nets, and tents.
If you don't believe me about agendas, see other HN discussions regarding bike helmets, software patents, and housing.
1) use neonicotinoid pesticides and killing off the bees
2) use DDT and kill off birds + danger to mammals
3) revert back to more traditional agriculture, and risk not being able to feed people
Basically, we're choosing between different evils :/
No danger to mammals, kill some birds (the hawk/eagle shell thinning was a lie, does kill some songbirds in high doses but I guess so does Teflon stoves), kills far less helpful insects.
It's the only one out of the three options where you don't risk killing hundreds of millions of people with disease and/or famine.
The issue has been pretty extensively studied and while you can cherry-pick individual studies the broad consensus is that DDT was one of the contributing factors.
The raptor population was bouncing back right as we started to introduce DDT. It's a funny thing that happens when you stop incentivizing shooting of the birds (wasn't until the early 40's they got federal protection, and it takes time for populations to recover). If you'd have read the sources I've linked (and the any of the citations in those sources) you'd see you're wrong.
'But my father', anecdotes are nice when they come along with data. Stringing together multiple studies is the best way to disprove an established narrative... but unfortunately the amount of time it takes to disprove well applied bullshit greatly outweighs the time it took to apply it.
EDIT: Also while I'm at it. Ever think to consider that thin shells might have been caused by greatly increased mercury and lead levels of the time? We banned TEL and reduced coal consumption since then. Look at nearly every study that concluded DDT had to be to blame for thin shells and you'll find they noted increased lead, mercury, and aluminum levels along with... but never put it into their conclusion.
It's not really a choice.
There's an awful lot of debatable thinking hidden in those 5 words.
On the other hand, it is a problem that keeps getting bigger.
It feels a bit like the elephant in the room. Either because of the aforementioned "solutions" that come up initially or because "science will fix it" since it has been shown that once people have it well they stop having a lot of kids.
Still, every five days there's 1 million more people on this earth and it doesn't look like most of these people will have it good in the near future. And meanwhile everything else just has to make room for more of us. It just doesn't seem sustainable.
 And who am I to stop people from having kids? I've got two myself.
The only thing that's still causing the population to increase is the inconvenient decrease in untimely death.
Given that the average American watches TV for something like 8 hours per day, I'd say there's roughly zero risk of not being able to feed people.
Now that farmers are aware of the link many will choose to reduce or stop using neonicotinoids entirely. If they don't do this voluntarily, they may be forced to do so by commercial beekeepers. Many farms rely on commercial beekeepers who they hire to transport bee hives to their fields when pollination is required. These beekeepers may simply refuse to hire out their bees to farms using neonicotinoid pesticides. It threatens their livelihood directly after all.
This is certainly bad news for neonicotinoid producers, at least in the short term. It's possible that neonicotinoids are not the problem and that reducing their use will do nothing to stop CCD. However, it seems inevitable that this is something that will be tried. We can only hope that the alternatives that farmers choose don't turn out to be even worse for bees.
or this; "The present findings suggest OP pesticides are more harmful than previously thought, even at low levels of exposure."
Then there is the Gulf War Syndrome which has been associated to high levels of insecticide use;
and this more recently, 'Pesticides: an update of human exposure and toxicity'
" A huge body of evidence exists on the possible role of pesticide exposures in the elevated incidence of human diseases such as cancers, Alzheimer, Parkinson, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, asthma, bronchitis, infertility, birth defects, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, diabetes, and obesity. Most of the disorders are induced by insecticides and herbicides most notably organophosphorus, organochlorines, phenoxyacetic acids, and triazine compounds."
"We conclude that PT and PO are genotoxic, while DF shows mitogenic activity. An important finding of this study is that PT had higher genotoxic potential than PO, which warrants for further investigations to correctly evaluate the hazards of exposure to these chemicals."
"Collectively, our results implicate gluconeogenesis as the key mechanism behind organophosphate-induced hyperglycemia, mediated by the organophosphate-degrading potential of gut microbiota. This study reveals the gut microbiome-mediated diabetogenic nature of organophosphates and hence that the usage of these insecticides should be reconsidered."
Even people who care nothing for the irreplaceable beauty of nature ought to consider how much measurable economic value we risk destroying in the name of short-term profits. Of course (as the podcast explores) it's a complicated equation, but still a very compelling one.
Bet this was planned long way before this research was done. Surely, folks in the industry understand from A/B outcomes same as we do understand IT.
Our kids might get slightly worse earth ecosystem then we have now.
Seems like all these things have answers that, being honest, we all knew the answer to long before the question was "settled". But there was an awful lot of money to be made prolonging the ambiguity.
When were we wrong? What are some other cases which didn't turn out like we expected? It may be harder to think of them but they must exist. What would have been the consequence of acting too early on those cases based on our speculation, now that we know we had been wrong?
Do you think we should start to take a more proactive approach to these kinds of problems? I mean, should we look at a problem and assume it's caused by whatever happens to look like the culprit?
See this link for some basic information:
There is a further good writeup on it in the great book "The Biology of Cancer" by Robert A Weinberg, but it is a textbook.
Is dietary cholesterol harmful? Obviously it is, except no experiment or even commonly advanced scientific hypothesis ever said it was. The hypothesis was that saturated fat intake raised blood cholesterol levels which in turn lead to more heart disease. But common wisdom was that somehow this meant egg yolks must be deadly. And shrimp.
Oh, and then the saturated fat hypothesis didn't replicate well.
And so forth.
In contrast to your sentiment, I wish we actually based more policy on well replicated science, rather than what is "obvious."
We clustered sites into triplets (>3.2 km between sites) and randomly allocated sites to one of three treatments: (i) clothianidin applied at 11.86 to 18.05 grams of active ingredient per hectare (g a.i. ha−1) with a fungicide (thriam and prochloraz) and nonsystemic pyrethroid (beta-cyfluthrin) (trade name Modesto); (ii) thiamethoxam applied at 10.07 to 11.14 g a.i. ha−1 and combined with the fungicides fludioxonil and metalaxyl-M (trade name Cruiser); and (iii) control OSR receiving a commercial fungicide (thriam and dimethomorph in Germany and Hungary and thriam and prochloraz in the United Kingdom) but no neonicotinoid seed treatment.
Fungicides may have synergistic effects when used with pesticides. 
The other study, "Chronic exposure to neonicotinoids reduces honey bee health near corn crops" is a bit more credible. Corn is a non-uniform seed and more apt to ablate the seed coat and generate significant dust issues, hence Canada's regulation to for seed lubrication. Ground persistence and mobility make setting up adjacent pollinator refuge sites a potential source of neonicotinoids in addition to the irrigated surface water. That corn is wind pollinated and only provides a nutrient poor pollen kind of exacerbates that, I think.
Contrast that with western Canada where CCD hasn't been observed in canola regions, canola seed is uniform and canola provides both nutritious pollen and nectar.
I still don't think an outright ban at this point is the right choice especially given the limited alternatives and research into those alternatives. Organophosphates are significantly worse for both humans and bees. Pyrethrins aren't exactly safe for bees either, with both being broad-spectrum insecticides and requiring more frequent application via foliar spraying. Even IPM guidelines for a pest like the flea beetle rank several types of neonicotinoids above using pyrethrins.
There really aren't any easy solutions but, reevaluating the use of prophylactic seed treatment should be worth a consideration.
It's still a pointless comment that would be better suited to Reddit. But it's not in contravention of the guidelines as far as I can tell.
> Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face-to-face conversation. Avoid gratuitous negativity.
and sidles up to this:
> Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them.
It's probably time to inject as much political vitriol into this as possible, and pretend to debate this controversial 'study' and so-called 'science' for another several decades at a minimum to really verify the science. If the bees aren't politicized and ranted against by talking heads, politicians, and cable TV pundits, how will we ever know what to think of them?
Bees are for wimps, pollinating is part of the study thumping pro-science evidence based agenda!
* https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14680497 [The US government is removing scientific data from the Internet]
There are, in fact, pesticides that have no effect on humans.
(and in fact, sadly, some of the things people think are "natural alternatives" are much worse for humans, like copper sulfate)
Which do you mean?