Weird Science: Honey Bee Extinction Could Mean Our Economic Downfall

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<i>Weird Science</i>: Honey Bee Extinction Could Mean Our Economic Downfall

This Week in Weird Science: The extinction of the honey bee will not only be disastrous for the Honey Nut Cheerio brand, but it’ll also hamper our food supply and economy. Some 750,000 jobs and $16 billion have honey bees to thank. Next, German pediatrics and child psychiatrists are calling for the ban of the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” Finally, scientific evidence that the louder you grunt, the better tennis player you are—which explains everything you need to know about the success of Serena Williams.

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If honey bees become extinct, our economy’s kind of fucked.

Honey bees are basically the pimps of the fruit and veggie world, pollinating enough plants to be responsible for roughly every third bite of food and pollinating enough humans to make them swat crazily at even the sound of a buzz. But that honey bee population is rapidly declining. Last year, 8-percent of the bees disappeared, according to the American Beekeepers Federation, and, two years ago, between 2015 and 2016, the situation was even more dire, with a 44-percent decrease in bee colonies.

Little do most people know, if honey bees go extinct, that could invite an economic disaster.

See, honey bees pollinate over 75 percent of flowering plants and crops, making it one of the most important pollinators in the U.S. Almonds, for example, are 100-percent dependent on honey bees. The apple and blueberry industries are so reliant on bee pollination that, without them, each industry would lose $2.9 billion and $888 million, respectively.

What would happen if bees go extinct?

Well, there wouldn’t simply be fewer apples and almonds and blueberries. In fact, it’d be a disaster. One in twelve American jobs are directly connected to agriculture, and bees’ contribution equates to well over $16 billion per year and helps employ some 750,000 Americans. To put that number in perspective, it’d be like eliminating the entire mining industry, from coal mining to sulfur mining—all of it.

How can we save the bees?

The biggest reason for decline in bees are mites and other parasites that latch onto the colonies and feed off adult honey bees. Other factors include weather (fuck climate change, right?), pesticides, and the goddamn fly swatter. But if we want the bees to return, we must take matters into our own hands—literally. According to the American Beekeeping Foundation, we need to start our own beehives—it can be the cool, new hipster fad. Furthermore, you should only buy local honey—too support the local beekeepers who can thus grow the bee population. Also, stop freaking out and spraying their hives. We all need the bees, especially if you want to eat marzipan again.

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German pediatrics want “13 Reasons Why” off Netflix.

Pediatrics in Germany want the popular Netflix program “13 Reasons Why” off the air immediately. The series, which deals with the suicide of a teenager in 13 episodes, has child psychiatrists worried that suicidal teens will re-enact scenes from the popular show.

Spokesman of the Berufsverband der Kinder – und Jugendärzte, Dr. Josef Kahl, called for an end to the program, noting that the show “disregards international guidelines on how suicide is reported,” he said in a statement.

To Dr. Kahl, the Werther Effect—copycat suicide—should be reason enough to ban the popular program.

“It shows suicide drastically and in detail, and those entertaining the idea of suicide may be influenced into action by the series, especially since it also depicts how suicide can be successful.”

“The Berufsverband der Kinder- und Jugendärzte” isn’t the first organization to warn against the dangers of the Netflix show. When the program first aired, the National Association of School Psychologists released a statement concerning the show’s potential danger, “Research shows that exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide.”

Alexa Curtis, founder of the nonprofit Media Impact and Navigation for Teens, shared a similar sentiment in an op-ed for Rolling Stone.

“Had I been watching that as a vulnerable, fragile kid that I was when I was 13 or 14, I might have watched that and thought, ‘Oh, that’s the easy way out. This is going to get me the attention that I need. This is what I have to do.’”

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You can tell who will win a tennis match based on the pitch of their grunts.

Ignore the aces and forehand winners. Researchers out of the University of Sussex have found that the winner of a tennis match isn’t in the shots but rather in the grunts.

The team analyzed 50 tennis matches featuring the world’s top 30 players and noticed that they could often predict the match winner based solely on the pitch of the players’ grunts.

Grunts from both male and female players were measured during all aspects of the game—serves, forehands, backhands—and throughout the entire match. Though the pitch of grunts increased as the matches progressed, the study found that, “this shift in pitch is not due to short-term changes in scoreboard dominance, but instead may reflect longer term physiological or psychological factors that may manifest even before the match,” said one of the lead authors and tennis team captain Jordan Raine. “These factors could include previous encounters, form, world ranking, fatigue, and injuries.”

Apparently, the grunts are so distinguishable, that the winner of matches could generally be determined even without proper scientific analysis. When played short clips of two players grunting, the team could identify, based on the grunt sequence, which player won and which player lost—no matter the stage of the match.

The team hopes that this analysis can grow beyond tennis—and impressing your buddies at the pub. Professor David Reby, one of the researchers of the study, hopes to use the results to identify connections between voice pitch and sexual attraction in mammals—or other human vocalizations like roars and fearful screams.

The loud grunts of Sharapova could lead to something beyond annoyance—or odd arousal.


Tommy Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but with more sunscreen and jorts.

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