The Theater of Public Policy is extremely excited to welcome Dr. Marla Spivak, MacArthur Fellow and Distinguished McKnight Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Minnesota to the show for Earth Day, April 22. Dr. Spivak is a world-renowned expert apiology (the study of bees).
Our cast’s own Andrew Haaheim is a biology teacher, so we wanted to hear what questions are buzzing in his head going into Monday’s show. Get it? Buzzing. Terrific.
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Bees. These furry insects are known by humans for their most apparent contributions to society: honey, stings, and fashionable queens. Beyond that, I would wager that most people do not spend too much of their day thinking about these little friends of ours. The truth is that bees are far more important that you know, and they are mysteriously disappearing.
Science? Bees? “What’s that? I heard that bees shouldn’t be able to fly because of the size of their wings in proportion to their body mass!” Yes, a fun talking point (and the legacy of some bad science debunked long ago). I guess no one told them, but bees are much more important.
I’m sure that everyone has heard at some point, either from their 6th grade life science teacher or the beloved Disney classic The Lion King, that all life is connected. Well, this is true. Very true. I would like to explain to you how you are connected to bees, why you should care about bees, and why The Theater of Public Policy show on April 22nd would be wise for you to attend.
Bees pollinate things. Lots of things. In the pursuit of sweet, sweet nectar, bees take the pollen from ‘male bits’ of one plant and expose it to the ‘female bits’ of a different plant. They basically facilitate plant sex, and they do it quite well because they are so darn furry (the stripes are just for style).
Let us suppose that for one year bees did not pollinate plants. Countless fruits, vegetables, crops, and plants across North America simply would not grow. Then ecosystems based on those plants would collapse. This affects you.
Several studies have estimated the cost of artificially pollinating all the plants that bees pollinate every day, every year, for free. It is in the trillions. An almost unimaginable amount of work that would need to be done by humans in order to approximate what bees do naturally. However, if the economy is looking to add jobs…
So now for the bad bit: Bees are disappearing all across North America, and it sounds like the plot to a great mystery movie. Seemingly healthy colonies disappear without a trace, their bodies are never recovered, and the queen bee is left to starve. This has been happening for decades to well over a million colonies of a year. This issue, however, is far more serious than any summer blockbusters paper-thin plot. The loss of bees has started to take its toll. To quote Brandt from the fine film The Big Lebowski, “This is our concern, dude.”
The reasons the bees are disappearing are nuanced and many. The only way you could possibly get the whole picture while laughing is by hearing Dr. Marla Spivak, world-renown bee scientist from the University of Minnesota, speak at the Theater of Public Policy on April 22nd.
Will you bee there?