Mind Your Own Beesness
By David Henderson
Rucker and Thurman point out that outbreaks of bee disease are not new: reading their article is your chance to get up to speed on varroa mites, tracheal mites, the bacterial infection called American foulbrood, and the nosema and chalkbrood fungus. Colony collapse disorder doesn’t seem to have a single cause, but two bee pathogens not previously active in the U.S. seem to be playing a role: in case you need to know, they are the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus and and adult honey microsporidian parasite called Nosema ceranae.
The authors also point out that beekeepers lose some bees every winter, and so they often split healthy hives into two separate hives. If necessary, they can also buy or trade with other beekeepers for queens or additional bees. Replacing the losses from colony collapse disorder has thus imposed costs, but otherwise been fairly straightforward. As a result, the number of bee colonies was actually higher in 2009 than in 2006, ever after several years of colony collapse disorder.
This is from “Do Markets Work for Bees?” Conversable Economist, July 10, 2014. Timothy Taylor’s bottom line to the question posed in the title is: yes.
But that hasn’t stopped the feds. Taylor writes:
Naturally, the proposed government solution is the creation of a Pollinator Health Task Force to create a National Pollinator Health Strategy, with representation from 17 different government agencies. We’ll see how that goes in the next six months or so, when the strategy is supposedly due.
Taylor’s bottom line:
At least to me, all of this looks like markets in action: shocks to supply, producers finding ways to adjust, globalization of the product, production costs and demand interacting to affect price. I am underconfident that the 17 agencies participating in the Pollinator Health Task Force, starting their deliberations a mere eight years after the problem became apparent, will add much value, although I’m sure National Honey Board could use some support for its grant program to study bee health. Maybe the task force should have some actual private-sector beekeepers and pollination customers, not just government officials? Or is that crazy talk?
Taylor also references this: “Wally Thurman on Bees, Beekeeping, and Coase,” Econtalk, December 16, 2013.