Gallery: Commercially Raised Bees Spreading Disease


Design can change the world for the better, but our wide reaching imprint on Mother Nature doesn’t always yield the best results. Case in point: the decline of bees. More specifically that commercially raised bumblebees are affecting the wild bee population. For years, researchers have been linking a decline in bees to everything from pesticides to genetically modified crops, and now the news is pointing to the bees themselves – the ones that humans “create” in greenhouses.

Researchers believe that some commercially raised bumblebees have escaped from greenhouses, foraged outside crops and spread diseases to their wild cousins. Crithidia bombi, a parasite that is common among commercial bees, is finding its way into the wild populations surrounding the greenhouses. Believed to be transfered from greenhouse bees, this parasite has been shown to weaken and kill wild bumblebees.

While this study has been done with bumblebee populations in southern Ontario, it may have far reaching implications. This type of transference may be one of the reasons that many honey bee colonies around the world have mysteriously disappeared, a phenomenon know as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Our designs flow through every built facet of this world; from the largest of buildings to the smallest of nano-tech devices. Our designs, even reach to the biological world. We have created genetically modified crops, we have cloned animals and we have commercially raised bees in greenhouses. Many of our designs have been widely accepted and benefited the world, but some have stirred controversy and have even had disastrous results. Unfortunately, it seems that commercially raising bees, in some instances, may have fallen into the latter category of harm.

It is a lesson that we need to heed. If we lose too many of our pollinators it could have extremely harmful effects for our crops and food supply. The bees in the study have been commercially raised, not even genetically altered. We must realize that our actions have consequences and our use of nature and how we design our agricultural systems can have lasting and far reaching effects, even with the seemingly benign act of raising commercial bees.

Via Reuters


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  1. hilary August 1, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    For an in-depth, though slightly dated (March 2007), article on apiculture and European honeybee die-offs, I suggest reading “The Silence of the Bees,” at

  2. diesoner July 31, 2008 at 7:35 am

    i did an internship at a beekeeping-farm. they focus on sustainability. (mellifera)
    at this place i got to know them bees entirely… the biggest threat to all – as for humanbeing is monotonous nutrition.

  3. Sunlei July 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    For beekeepers info Pear farmers in China have said their bees have been gone for over 40 years.They have to hand pollinate each flower.

    The Chinese also produce the bee food “royal Jellie” that bee farmers feed the bees. Someone should look at what virus or disease wiped out the chinese pear bees so very long ago. In my opinion the royal jelly from china spread that disease to all the bees in the world.

    Sunlei from Stafford,Texas

  4. beekeep July 29, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Commercial bees are not raised in Greenhouses, and have not been modified or selectively bred to the extent of most other commercial animals or crops. There is no doubt that diseases can and may pass between different populations (wild and farmed), but this article seems to contain a number of factual errors and I\’m not sure the fact that bees are human-kept has as much to with colony collapse or other bee diseases as our system of global trade. The varroa mite, for example, is thought to have been isolated to Siberian populations of honeybees until the trans-siberian railroad opened. Not a very informed article.

  5. Charity July 29, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Am I the only person who is blown away by the genius of the bee?

  6. edustinc July 29, 2008 at 8:22 am

    i just don’t understand why we need to be genetically modifying nature. Some things have taken millions of years to perfect. We need to stop trying to make everything “better” and realize some things are the way they are for a reason. We are pushing the bees to hard and nature is fighting back and saying “seriously?”.

  7. naomi July 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Bumblebees are amazing solitary creatures, able to discover new food sources, settling in Rose of Sharon blossoms before they close at night, so as to have a safe habitat, sealed off from the outside world, opening for them when the first light comes. Honeybees are one of the good things (I think) Europeans brought over from the old world. Indians called them the White Man’s bee. The American continent bee is only active at certain times of year, making a small hold where it creates several chambers. The first few contain females; the last couple have males. That way, if a predator comes, though some males are lost, the females will probably still find other males and procreate to lay many more future bees. I don’t know if these bees are affected by this devastation.

  8. leafpure July 28, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    What an un-Inhabitat post I thought when I saw the bee photo, but as I read on, I think it’s right on the subject-design.
    It is frightening how quickly we humans can tip the scales towards an ecological disaster if we disturb the ecological system, which we are doing every day.

  9. punkerben July 28, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    FYI bumble bees are not honey bees.
    And the National Geographic does not refer to them as Bumble so I think it is a mistake for this sites story.

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