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Honeybees and Dystopias

Dystopian realities are often correlated to political instigates and situations, fascism, extremism, and despotism as well as extreme corruption. Dystopian realities tend to mirror the worse of humankind and magnify them, causing a realm of chaos and utter despair. Furthermore, fears and ethical situations are magnified to created tension in the narrative. A true dystopia is a world devoid of all hope and devolves into futility and absurdity.

Dystopian storylines are consumed due to their shock value and lack of political normalcy. The political despotism fuels not only our imaginations but also the visual art industry. Due to the monopoly of political dystopias, there is a tendency to ignore ecological dystopias, which are bypassed in favor of more fantastical realities. When they are depicted, these dystopian universes focus on human experience and survival, rather than the materialization of the universe itself.

There is no denying that human experience is important and merits recognition. However, it is worth noting that human experience is often synonymous with the experience of the majority or the privileged. Not only this, humankind often thrusts itself into the role of the victim, thereby detaching itself from all responsibility. While not always conscious, this detachment is dangerous as it creates a rift that detaches the perpetrators from the victims; they are in fact the same.

The rift that is created is a human creation, however, other species are sucked into the maelstrom that it creates. While this is common knowledge, this awareness only extends towards umbrella species and keystone species; species that are handpicked to raise civic mindfulness. Less appealing species are shunted aside into the shadows of non-recognition and eventual endangerment. Such is the case of the honeybee, which now faces a dystopian reality.

Usually ignored, honeybees play a large role in maintaining the equilibrium of an ecosystem. Most plant pollination happens by honeybees during their search for nectar; this nectar is made into honey, while pollen fertilizes female plants. In order to reign in the strength of these insects, honeybee farms have been popular for centuries. The honeybees are able to create a hive in a stable environment and humans are able to harvest honey.

Recently, however, honeybee populations and colonies all over North America are collapsing. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomena causes bees to drop dead or disappear, leaving their queen behind. Often CCD is caused by pathogens found in pollen; many attribute these to the fertilizers and insecticides used to protect crops. Ironically, these chemicals used to protect plants are, also harm them by killing off honeybees and causing them to behave erratically. Furthermore, if a queen bee cannot mate with male bees, called drones, she will resort to become a drone-layer. A drone-layer marks the beginning of the end of colony, as she cannot lay female worker bees or a new queen.

There are many causes that lead to colony collapses. Most often, it is external factors that affect the bees the most. Pollution, deforestation, heat waves and cold fronts are most likely to cause a colony to disappear. The delicate harmony of a colony depends not only on the climate, but also on other parts of the ecosystem, mainly the flora. Flowers provide bees with nectar, while bees further the fecundity of a flower through cross-pollination. In itself, a male flower is not fecund; it is stationary and requires the aid of an agent to fertilize female flowers. Dispersing pollen into the air is not a guarantee of fertilization; bees are more reliable as they move from flower to flower with the pollen. If either bee or flower were to succumb to external factors, this symbiotic relationship would collapse, taking the rest of the bionetwork with it.

It is not only the honeybee that would suffer, but the rest of nature as well. Honeybees are part of an intricate ecosystem, which relies on bees to pollinate plants so that they can grow. Without this growth, herbivores lose their main source of food and will thus die out, taking carnivores and omnivores along. This damage is not isolated; the failure of one niche ecosystem spells doom for other ecosystems as they struggle to provide for themselves. Once an ecosystem collapses, it has no choice but towards a new equilibrium. However, this is not always possible as there is only so much positive feedback an ecosystem can take until it disappears into the chaos of dystopia.

This struggle is not the fault of the honeybee. It is our fault.  Honeybees have simply been sucked into the abyss of progress and growth and environmental exploitation. Our need for progress comes at a price that we will do anything to pay. What is problematic, however, is that we expect creatures, like bees, to pay the price for us. Bees are ill suited to adaptation; their immune systems and exoskeletons are very delicate. The queen bee is even more vulnerable as they depend on mating for their survival of the colony.

There is no easy solution to this problem. Awareness is not instantaneous and is never enough. It is unfortunate that awareness rarely leads to action, especially in the case of those species that are not considered valuable or aesthetically appealing. We have taken so much from nature, from the honeybee, that we now owe it some compensation. Even if we are satisfied with our descent into a dystopian future, is it right to drag other species and organisms with us? It is high time that we remember that we are the only perpetrators but not the only victims. The victims are those too defenseless to protect themselves from the havoc we seem to be intent on wreaking. It is time they had a say.

1 Comment

  1. Niam Solera says:

    Einstein said that without bees all human life will be extinguished on earth in four years!
    Its a pity that we do not understand the criticality of the situation.

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