luludi: (bee aware)
[personal profile] luludi
The Disappearing Honey Bees

If ever there was evidence of our connection with other living things, it’s the honeybee and the threat its recent disappearing act may pose to the human food supply.

A good portion of the human diet relies on honeybees’ work — crops now potentially in jeopardy because tens of billions of bees are dying in a bizarre phenomenon dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder.” Scientists don’t know the cause, or how to stop it.

One of nature’s most flexible, hard-working insects, honeybees pollinate about 100 flowering food crops including apples, nuts, asparagus, citrus fruits and cantaloupe — as well as animal-feed crops, such as clover that’s fed to dairy cows.

There is no way, at the moment, to pollinate most of these crops by hand or any other mechanism,” says Dr. Eric Mullen, agricultural extension officer at the University of California, Davis.

Apiculturists have testified before Congress about the syndrome, while government and academic labs dig for answers. CCD has received prominent attention in the national press.

Sudden and widespread bee deaths were first reported last November, and add up to a quarter of the U.S. bee population. Large commercial beekeepers are hurt worst, some losing 70 percent of their hives. Scientists are puzzled by how the dead adult bees vanish from the hives, leaving behind the queen and baby bees. They also note that while bees instinctually rob honey from other hives, healthy bees are avoiding CCD-affected hives — suggesting that those hives may be contaminated somehow.

To my knowledge, nobody has ever seen this particular set of symptoms or circumstances before,” says Troy Fore, president of the American Beekeeping Federation. Academics point to poor nutrition, pathogens and new pesticides, or combinations of pesticides, as potential causes.

Bees were in peril before CCD. The number of managed bee colonies has dropped to 2 million from 6 million during the past 50 years. Monoculture farming and heavy chemical use is one culprit, say experts. Global trade, bringing exotic microbes to the United States, is another. And while it’s now common for beekeepers to move their hives across the country and around the world to help farmers pollinate crops, some experts say this practice interrupts bees’ diet and involves too much jostling of the bees themselves.

All those things are very, very hard on honeybees,” Mullen says. “But before this, they’ve always recovered.”

While scientists study CCD, experts say there’s a lot you can do right now to help honeybees.

How can I help the honeybees? )

For more information, please watch Silence of the Bees and visit helpthehoneybees.com

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Help The Honeybees

April 2009

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