A look at our agricultural past may explain why honey bees around the world began disappearing three years ago

Joe Kloc in Seed Magazine:

BeeBlues_SQR Muddy Waters had made the honey bee “synonymous with the pains and frustrations associated with love and intimacy,” writes Tammy Horn in Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation. And the entertainment industry was only the most visible force in shaping the honey bee as the societal metaphor of the day. By the 1950s, Apis mellifera was also being used to describe, “difficult power struggles between races, between spouses, between political parties, between generations, between legal rulings.” A decade ago, it might have seemed unlikely that there would be any real connection between the story of Waters’ “Honey Bee” and that of the European honey bee in North America. But since 2006, when bees began disappearing in record numbers as the result of a mysterious ailment known as Colony Collapse Disorder, scientific investigations into the honey bee’s history have revealed that, just as the honey bee was coming to symbolize Chicago’s struggling labor class, it was itself weakening under the modern industrial agriculture system it was tasked with maintaining. The story of the honey bee—like that of “Honey Bee”—is, at bottom, the story of modernization. And stopping the bees’ disappearance is ultimately a question of understanding this story. What’s left to ask, after three years of research, is why has that been so hard to do.

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