You may have already heard: bees are disappearing by the millions â€” and no one really knows why.
If you haven’t heard, let me bring you up to date. It’s being called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and it’s like nothing else scientists have ever seen before.
Adult worker bees are literally disappearing. A hive that was healthy just weeks before will be opened by the beekeeper to find only a handful of adult bees, or sometimes, none at all. The queen is still there, the larvae are still there, but no worker bees.
The weirdest part? There’s also no dead bees. Ordinarily, when bees are struck by mites or poisoned by pesticides, there are dead bees in or around the hive, but this? It’s like the bee rapture: they’re just gone. And no bee corpses means no wee autopsies can be done to figure out what’s going on.
Why should you care? So what, I’ll just live without honey, you say? What does this mean for you and me? A lot.
At least one-third of all US agriculture rests on bees â€” that’s anywhere from 12 to 15 billion dollars of crops every year pollinated by bees. Almonds, apples, avocados, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, kiwi fruit, macadamia nuts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, legume seeds, pumpkins, squash, and sunflowers: 90% to 100% of their pollination comes from honey bees.
I emailed Dr. Dewey Caron, of the University of Delaware’s Department of Entomology and Applied Ecology, asking what we can expect if CCD becomes more widespread. “Short term,” he writes, “might see a small increase in about three or four dozen commodities that rely on pollination… longer term, we will just end up importing more of the foods we eat.”
That is, assuming the foods are imported from countries where CCD has yet to appear. Spain, Croatia, Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, and the UK are all experiencing large, mysterious losses of honey bees.
I also asked Dr. Caron what the average person could do. “We do need better funding for this basic critical connection in agriculture. [The] farm bill is up for change/renewal. Start local and work to federal level as interest permits.”
Other than that… I don’t know. I guess we just wait.
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