Just started Twittering so if you are interested in little pieces of news about my bee project, get an account and follow me @ www.twitter.com/solitarybee. The advantage of this is that I just got a scoop on another possible cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (a name given to the mysterious and worrying disappearance of European Honey Bee colonies). Thanks to someone tweeting about an article they’d spotted.
The New York Times (5/1/09) reports on Andrew B. Barron, a senior lecturer at Macquarie University in Australia placing liquefied cocaine on the backs of bees to study their behaviour. Apparently they became doubly enthusiastic waggle dancers back at the hive “dance floor” when discovering large sources of nectar.
Honey bees unwittingly fed drugs
We must bear in mind that although their subjects are innocent and naive, Dr. Barron et al are only just starting to take their responsibilities seriously. It seems that as an afterthought – after subjecting so many youngsters (I am sure it wasn’t just one) to an overdose of Saturday night fever, they are only just considering checking whether the honey bees begin to crave cocaine and need more for the same effect.
I suppose that’s the fun of science over medicine – it’s easier to give the drugs out and laugh at the effects, but more of a hassle to check blood pressure, the dilation of their many pupils and whether they disappear off into the hive to ingest all the hard-earned work of their room-mates.
OK, but ‘where is this going in respect of my scoop/theory about Colony Collapse Disorder?’ you may indeed ask. Well, it is that another piece of the puzzle emerges later in the article that we should take careful note of.
Apparently the Dean of this Australian University has been getting ‘twitchy’, and keeping an eye on said coke-dealing activities. Dr Barron claims that all he needs is one gram of cocaine, but it all seems all rather suspicious to me – not the twitchy Dean – but the fact that Dr. ‘drug’ Barron almost complains that he has to be accompanied. Apparently:
A technician from the ethics department has to walk across campus to supervise the release of the cocaine
A full job description of an ethical technician in Australia can wait, but i would urgently like to add something to her/his list of duties; that Dr. Barron et al need to be watched – especially when leaving the campus chuckling. For the sake of colonies everywhere we need to track their movements. Why? Well let me sum the facts up for you, then I will let you draw the conclusions.
It certainly looks sinister as far as bees are concerned
These people :
- Are prepared to feed cocaine to innocent victims before worrying about the after effects.
- They specialize in bees.
- Have colleagues flagging up that they may be ‘ethically-challenged’ and need to be watched.
- They are proud of what they do and happy to talk to people on another continent.
Of course I may be speculating wildly here, but we have to bearing in mind that Colony Collapse Disorder needs a solution urgently. As we all know solutions without problems can make people depressed. So I think wild speculation can occasionally possess an edge of nobility, plus in this case it may helps us to think outside of the hive/box (depending on who you are). I see several emergent hypotheses possible:
Cocaine Collapse and Disorder – Five Hypotheses
- Confusion factor hypothesis - Out of control experimental bees could be flying off elsewhere, confusing other hive guardians with their dancing frenzy, inciting workers out to non-existent addresses of nectar sources, and then nipping inside and scoffing their honey.
- Dancing ‘Wow Factor’ hypothesis - from said bees, perhaps an under-bar bee dance-craze has been sweeping Australia (and onwards), that we have been unaware of; one that is exhausting workers and giving them a less than dedicated attitude in the morning. Over time this could significantly reduce the efficacy of the colony and result in less winter stocks.
- Workers Bees Economy is stressful – perhaps it’s silly to suggest that although social bees are individually vulnerable, they are in fact politically militant. Others suggest in this (ref: bee drama-documentary) that they are philosophical. If such tendencies exist, rumours of ‘stuff’ that gives a bigger buzz than nectar may make them leave a hive in droves, never to return. Already many times in history generations of youngsters have dropped out of a responsible life.
- Peer Pressures & Peer Review = colonies collapsing everywhere. Returning to the human dimension (perhaps the most sinister of scenarios I can envisage), and another example of why science does not always move us forward: When a paper is published there is a strong likelihood that others were on the same path, but pipped at the publication post. Venting their ‘what will we do for funding now?’ angst all over the world on different continents, they could be blowing their single grams of coke on the innocent in their local hives (it explains the history and acceleration of the CCD problem there);
- The YouTube vortex funding dilemma hypothesis - Alternatively, knowing now that they can get raving results, said bereft scientists are quietly continuing to feed drugs of all kinds to bees (LSDs and flowers must be a heady mix), in the hope that they will gain alternative sources of funding via the popularity of YouTube videos and the associated advertising opportunities. This would then encourage above-mentioned hypothesis 1 & 2, and increase the likelihood of the third. The whole thing could be just accelerating and spiralling the whole CCD out of (bee-keeping) control.
So what do you think about Colony (via-Cocaine) Collapse Disorder theory? Would welcome your comments and feedback.