With Michael Crichton and Rush insisting "there’s no basis in fact" and Al Gore and global consensus inconveniently urging "immediate and drastic action", the debate over climate change is heating up faster than our atmosphere. And as each side grows increasingly frustrated with the other’s inability to see "the plain truth", a healthy debate devolves into an argument.
Which concerns me, as people are likely to tune out before an intelligent conclusion can be reached. We have a finite appetite for negative news over which we have no control.
But then something BIG like this hits the news, something that strikes at our hearts (specifically, at the breakfast table) – in 2004 bee populations had declined 50% since 1956, now reports indicate they are 90% below 1956 levels.
Of course, this is important to more than just honey lovers (but HAVE you seen the price of honey lately?!!) Because of the important role bees play in pollination, a 2004 National Geographic article posited that bee loss may affect 10% – 30% of our food supply. News which, naturally, makes every wine lover ask – "will the bee shortage affect my wine supply??!!"
Relax oh ye friends of the vine, I bring glad tidings of great joy. The vast majority of grape vines are self-fertilizing hermaphrodites, with the naughty bits of both male and female neatly arranged on the same flower bud. As long as the vineyard has a gentle springtime breeze now and then, they can reproduce sans birds or bees.
The amazing photo of a naked grape bud (right) is from the horticultural department at Cornell University. It came from a web page called "Grape Breeding Procedures" which curious humans will find worth perusing and curious grapes would find strangely erotic, I’m guessing.
For those short on time, I’ll summarize the information – the female portion of the vine (ovary) is the vase-shaped item in the center. Surrounding each ovary are five "males" (about the same ratio found in your average singles bar, as I recall from my distant past) in the form of stamens – the business end of which contains a pod of pollen called the "anther".
Pollen from each mature anther primarily spreads by wind, and though the female portion of the plant is a fraction of an inch away, an anther’s pollen can carry as much as 20 feet. One supposes this gives spurned pollen a second chance with another female ovary or a chance to nestle in the sinuses of the highly allergic. If he can’t reproduce, a pollen might as well cause a bit of mischief, no?
So, wine lovers rest assured. The sky may fall someday, but the decline of the bees won’t have an immediate affect on our favored beverage. Now, whether there’s anything left to EAT it with is another question…
Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant
Toll Free 866-746-7293
"Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas take advantage of our case discounts at www.SidewaysWineClub.com"
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