Image credit: The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement
With the epic fight to save the bees still in progress, honeybees and other insects always kick up an interesting discussion here on TreeHugger. But few can claim to be as knowledgeable or influential in the world of insects as world leading entomologist and recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Professor May Berenbaum—whose research ranges from the coevolution of plants and insects, through pesticide resistance and its implications, to Colony Collapse Disorder. In fact Professor Berenbaum's work suggests that a new understanding of insects and their role in the natural world could offer revolutionary potential for both economic development and conservation. Now TreeHugger readers will have the opportunity for an exclusive live chat with the Professor about her work and what it means for the search for sustainability.
The Nobel Prize of the Natural World
Berenbaum follows in the footsteps of previous Tyler Prize laureates that include Edward O. Wilson, recognized for his early work on the theory of island biogeography; Jane Goodall, selected for her seminal studies on the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees and her impact on wildlife awareness and environmental conservation; Jared Diamond, renowned author who gave birth to the discipline of conservation biology; and Thomas Lovejoy, a central figure in alerting the world to the critical problem of dwindling tropical forests to receive what is widely considered to be the Nobel Prize of the natural world.
Understanding Colony Collapse Disorder
Her research has been seminal in furthering our understanding the development of Colony Collapse Disorder and what to do about it, and has ranged from academic papers to several books aimed at educating the general public including Bugs in the System: Insects and their Impact on Human Affairs, and Honey I'm Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive Across the Centuries and Around the World. There is, she argues, no way that humanity can ignore the plight of one of our most precious insect allies:
Bees serve a unique role as partners to plants because they are pollinators and required for reproduction," explains Berenbaum. "With roughly one third of the US diet dependent on one species of bee for pollination, it's essential to understand what is happening to bees and correct course."
How Insects and Plants Coevolve. (And Why It Matters.)
The implications of Professor Berenbaum's research stretches way beyond honeybees. In fact, a central focus of her work has been exploring the relationship between plants and insects on a genetic level. As an expert in the field of chemical ecology, Berenbaum has helped prove that there is an ongoing "arms race" between plants and insects—a discovery that has been fundamental to a better understanding of pesticide resistance, insects and genetically modified crops.
A powerful advocate for insects, Berenbaum does not just appeal to our self interests. A world without insects, says the Professor, is not a world that any of us would want to imagine:
"Someone has got to stick up for the little guy," said Berenbaum. "This world, this planet, would not function without insects. Our lives would be miserable without insects and people don't realize that."
Join us at 2.30est on Tuesday March 29th for a live discussion on insects, honeybees and why it's in our own interests to look out for them. To participate in the conversation, simply bookmark this page. The live chat will take place in the window above. Questions and comments can be shared in the chat taking place below the video.
More on Honey Bees, Insects and the Natural World
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Is Eating Insects the Answer to Reducing Our Carbon Footprint?
Colony Collapse Disorder and the Epic Fight to Save the Bees
Beekeeping Alternatives: Top-Bar Hives, Warre Hives and Natural Approaches to Honey Bees