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Bee deaths and historical context

We've talked before here at BoingBoing about how "Colony Collapse Disorder" is probably more than one thing, with more than one cause. Another important detail to keep in mind as you read media reports on bee deaths — the collection of symptoms that we call Colony Collapse Disorder is also probably a lot older than you think. In a guest post at Bug Girl's blog, bee expert Doug Yanega explains that CCD didn't start in 2006. In fact, periods of mass bee die-offs with the same collection of symptoms have been recorded at least 18 times, dating back to 1869. Maggie

Be careful out there, bedbug warriors

Yes, bedbugs are gross. But before you go all Conan on any creepy creatures living in your mattress, please be aware that pesticides are both helpful and potentially dangerous. With bedbug infestations on the rise in many American cities, the Centers for Disease Control is trying to make people aware of the dangers of using too much pesticide, using the wrong types of pesticide, or not carefully following directions. Know what you're using on your home and know what any company you hire to spray is using, too. (Via Jen Gunter) Maggie

Are pesticides evil, or awesome?

Are pesticides helpful things that allow us to produce more food, and keep us safe from deadly diseases? Or are they dangerous things that kill animals and could possibly be hurting us in ways we haven't even totally figured out just yet?

Actually, they're both.

This week, scientists released a research paper looking at the health benefits (or lack thereof) of organic food—a category which largely exists as a response to pesticide use in agriculture. Meanwhile, Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, which forced Americans to really think about the health impacts of pesticides for the first time, was published 50 years ago this month.

The juxtaposition really drove home a key point: We're still trying to figure out how to balance benefits and risks when it comes to technology. That's because there's no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Should we use pesticides, or should we not use them? The data we look at is objective but the answer is, frankly, subjective. It also depends on a wide variety of factors: what specific pesticide are we talking about; where is it being used and how is it being applied; what have we done to educate the people who are applying it in proper, safe usage. It's complicated. And it's not just about how well the tools work. It's also about how we used them.

“It is not my contention,” Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge.”

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