I would like to take this opportunity to tout the amazing abilities and essential qualities of a NJ keystone species, the honey bee. These little drones not only underpin just about every other species on the planet because of their activities, they also form absolutely awe-inspiring complex societies. From navigation, communication, food synthesis and hierarchies, the common honey-bee has it all.
A keystone species is one that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. Without them, there would be both predictable and unpredictable catastrophic reverberations throughout the ecosystem. Think trophic cascade (see my past blog post re predators) and then square it once, then again and maybe 1 more time.
As you may be aware, the honey bee has been under siege for years with hive collapse being a common occurrence even with the most experienced bee keepers. The most up-to-date data points at both Varroa mites and Bayer’s neonicotinoid class of insecticides as the twin evils of hive death. And this is coming from a guy that has never considered man-made compounds, “chemicals” as people like to call them (every material by the way is a “chemical”), as anything better or worse than material that can be found in nature. What about asbestos (a naturally occurring silicate mineral)? Or...think of those nasty venoms or how about tannins which occur in the essential (to me anyway) coffees and chocolates. Check out “POLLUTION, PESTICIDES, AND CANCER: MISCONCEPTIONS. Bruce N. Ames and Lois S. Gold.” at http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cpdb/pdfs/Angew.pdf for more on those nutty misconceptions linked to “chemicals”.