Numlock News: May 17, 2023 • The Birds, The Bees, The Vending Machines
By Walt Hickey
A new study published in Biology Letters looked at what happens to bumblebees when they’re covered in pollen, an occupational hazard in their field of work. The fuzzy little bees will accumulate packets of pollen on their back legs, and the researchers wanted to figure out what that accumulated insulation did to the bees. They found that for every milligram of pollen carried, the bee’s body temperature rises 0.07 C, with a fully loaded bee running 2 C hotter than one with no pollen. The concern is mostly for the bees as the climate warms, if that’s just a bit too much heat stress for the bumblebees to handle, which could have negative effects for not just the pollinators but also the things they pollinate.
Last year sales of organic food products in the United States hit $61.67 billion, up 4.3 percent year over year from $59.15 billion, with Certified Organic accounting for 6 percent of total food sales in the U.S. Organic’s doing better in some quarters than others, with organics now 15 percent of all U.S. produce sales as well as 8 percent in dairy and eggs. Outperforming the category as a whole was organic coffee, which grew 7 percent over 2022, as well as organic soft drinks, which grew 14 percent, and organic eggs, up 11 percent.
America was once extremely mobile, with people moving between states for work very often. That slowed down over the course of the 20th century for a lot of reasons, but now it could not get much lower. From 1986 to 1997, 29 percent of job seekers relocated for a new position, a figure that fell to 17.8 percent over the period from 1998 to 2007 and seemed to crater out during the pandemic at just 4.1 percent in 2021. While seasonality is potentially a thing, in the first quarter of 2023 just 1.6 percent of people relocated to take a new job, likely due to tight labor market, remote work and people having more choice to take their pick of work without hitching up the wagon and harkening west.
Normal Stuff Is Still Normal
Despite demonstrations from some of the louder milieu of social media, support for measles, mumps and rubella vaccines for children has remained very steady and very high over the past several years. In 2016, 88 percent of respondents said the benefits outweigh the risks, in 2019 yet again 88 percent of respondents said the benefits outweigh the risks, and after a huge national vaccine campaign on yet another matter entirely, still in March 2023 you bet that 88 percent of respondents think that the benefits of a childhood MMR vaccine yet outweigh the risks. In 2023, 91 percent of respondents said the MMR had medium or high preventative health benefits, well in line with the longtime scientific consensus on the matter.
Japan has a vibrant system of vending machines that offer food, beverages and goods far beyond the more conventional stock found in vending machines in other parts of the world. While online shopping and increased competition from convenience stores has made for a decline in the number of such machines over the past few years, there remain over 4 million in service and there’s evidence that the industry will bounce back. Some machines that sell frozen and chilled food were a big hit during the pandemic, as were machines that sold luxury food. The tech’s come a long way, too, and trends toward contactless payment are favorable.
There are only around 600 California condors left in the world, the massive scavengers that have rebounded from near extinction — there were at one point less than 30 birds left — to mere brink-of-extinction. The issue now is that a bird flu is ripping through avian populations the world over, and H5N1 has likely killed 21 condors since March, which for most bird populations is a small number but when you’re dealing with a denominator in the hundreds can be a real issue. In light of that, federal officials have given the green light to a bird flu vaccine to be used on the birds, starting with those in captivity and potentially expanding beyond.
NOAA added haddock in the Gulf of Maine to its overfishing list, which led the New England Fishery Management Council to reduce the catch quota by 84 percent for the current year. Most haddock is imported, and some countries — such as Norway — are also steeply cutting quotas to respond to declining global fish stocks. The haddock catch in the U.S. has fluctuated a lot, down from over 150 million pounds per year in the 1950s to less than a million pounds per year in the 1990s due to overfishing. Lately, the catch has been 12 million to 23 million pounds.
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