Corn Syrup, Mercury, Bees and CCD: The Long Tail of News

Forgive me for diverging from this blog’s normal topic of marketing, but I feel that the importance of researching the long tail of news cannot be understated and the following could be a good example of this. The following chain of events occurred from reading the news — not from using HitTail — but I think it just goes to show what can happen when you dig deep into data. Hopefully this is not lost on today’s investigative journalists. I hope one of you will find this story and research it further than I can.

This morning I read on a story buried on page 8 of my morning paper that mercury has been found in a large percentage of corn syrup. An hour later, I read a new column on the New York Times website about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that is quietly ravaging American bees and endangering our food supply. CCD has been a mystery since its discovery in 2006. Yet today I noticed one key aspect that had been left out of prior reporting that I had read. Honeybees are fed on corn syrup while being moved between farms. Corn syrup that has now been found to likely contain mercury. While a minor amount to humans, this could be toxic to bees.

Part of the problem of CCD is that once bees are infected, they often leave the hive never to return. That makes diagnosing them difficult. Yet, according to Wikipedia, symptoms in mercury poisoning include include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. Maybe the bees can’t find their way back. It probably also lowers their defenses, making them susceptible to other diseases.

Bee keepers, please try feeding bees on something else other than corn syrup. Reporters, keep digging in the long tail for potential news angles like this one. I don’t know if there is any correlation between the two stories, but both are important issues that independently deserve more press.

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