Article from Nathanael Johnson
1. Prior to reading this article, had you heard that populations of crop pollinators were in decline? Where did you hear this? How did you react? Did you question whether the conservation science was objective? Now that you have read this article, do you have faith that conservation science is objective?
2. How does plant pollination happen? What role do insects play? What major crops are wind-pollinated? What major crops are insect-pollinated? Were you aware how much of a role native, wild pollinating insects play in bringing food to your table? How does habitat conservation in agricultural areas influence pollination?
3. The article refers to the evolving scientific understanding of the pollination crisis as a “scoping problem.” Explain the microscope-telescope metaphor. Can you think of other situations in which taking a step back and viewing a problem from a greater scale would provide valuable perspective? Why, actually, has the number of hives in the United States declined while global production of plant-pollinated crops has increased?
4. What did Aizen and colleagues discover about global trends in insect-pollinated crops? How did they come to the conclusion that there was not actually a global pollination crisis? Do you believe their methods were sound?
5. Does this article help you to see the interdisciplinary aspect of conservation science? How does the article portray the interplay between natural sciences (e.g., biology) and global food economics? In your own education, what courses are you taking that will help you make these kinds of connections?
6. What do you make of the statement “honeybees are an invasive species in most places”? Did you know this? What problems might it pose for ecosystems to import pollinators from elsewhere?
Websites for Further Information
- United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: http://www.fao.org/
- Help the Honeybees (Häagen-Dazs): http://www.helpthehoneybees.com/
- YouTube Video on Life Cycle of Honeybee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSk_ev1eZec
Pollinators in the News
- Denbighshire villagers’ bid to become ‘bee friendly’ (BBC News, February 24, 2010): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/north_east/8533813.stm
- Virus implicated in bee decline (BBC News, September 6, 2007): http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6978848.stm
Peer-reviewed Literature (in addition to citations listed in the article)
- Biesmeijer, J.C. et al. 2006. Parallel declines in pollinators and insect-pollinated plants in Britain and the Netherlands. Science 21: 351-354
- Kremen, C., N.M. Williams, and R.W. Thorp. 2002. Crop pollination from native bees at risk from agricultural intensification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99: 16812-16816
- Dependence of agriculture on insects
- Scientific method
- Importance of viewing problems at multiple scales