Bees and humans have co-existed for thousands of years, and as humanity has advanced they have attempted to improve their end of the bargain through many practices to increase hive productivity as well as increasing the number of hives available.
A widely used tactic to increase hive number is the process of artificial insemination. This almost universal tactic allows queen breeders to turn out many hives in a short amount of time with relatively high success. An uptick in the demand for bees in many places (California being a leading buyer of these mass produced hives) has turned what was once a small and local practice of raising bees into a commercial powerhouse with implications far outreaching the profit.
The process of breeding queens is a complex one requiring skill and mainly trial and error. The process was described in great detail in "Breeding improved Honey Bees..." by William C. Roberts and Otto Mackensen. This garish looking process requires the inseminator to literally squash a male bee to extract the sperm which is then forcefully inserted into the queen. The queen is then left to lay her eggs in the hive undisturbed until the next mating season where the inseminator must go through the same process in order to keep the stocks pure. Other methods of inbreeding are non-viable and cause the hive to turn on itself, so this method is the only option for beekeepers using inbred bees. Even though this method is viable, it is necessary to go through multiple rounds of bees and use "tester" lines in order to ensure the manifestation of desired traits in the bees. This process leaves multiple rounds of bees necessary in order to create one desired type. There are obviously observable benefits to this practice; one example being that, more often than not, gentleness is increased in bees that have been inbred. There are also many potential downsides to this worldwide process. With inbreeding, all traits are fixed. This means that both the good, and more notably the bad, are in the bloodline to stay with each new generation unless differing genetic material is introduced. Thus, damaging traits continue to be passed down as the evolution of bee-kind grinds down to a previously unobserved halt. This lack of change in the genetic structure of bees has led to an explosion in problems facing the bees -- most notably, the Varroa Destructor mite. Without variation in brood, these problems will continue and worsen as the bee's natural enemies continue to adapt uninterrupted by humanity.
In a study conducted by John R. Harbo and Tibor I. Szabo, naturally mated queens' lifespan and the efficiency of their hives was compared to that of a queen who had been artificially inseminated in a lab. At all locations the study observed, "the colonies with [naturally mated] queens had 21-73% more capped brood in may... than did colonies with [artificially inseminated] queens". Brood is the hive's young, and as demonstrated by this study, the influence of humans in the brood production process leads to far fewer viable bees. The study also observed a marked increase in honey production from the naturally mated queens over the artificially inseminated variety. With more honey comes a healthier and better-fed hive with increased surplus to spare for the happy, human consumer. The increase in honey also illustrates an increase in pollination which is important for crop production and the continuation of certain species of plant that require pollination to reproduce.
What must be garnered from this compilation of observation is the disastrous effect of playing God. The more we meddle, the more "Wicked Problems" we create which compound and intertwine. Scaling back operations is the only way to allow nature to heal, and the problems we have caused to rectify themselves.
First Year Industrial Design Student
ened | arte 3040