Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Where Are The Bees?

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." - Albert Einstein
Honeybees are disappearing from hives all across the country - Harvesters in 24 states report hive population rates have mysteriously fallen 30% to 70%.
It's alarming.

Apparently bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and never returning to their colonies. Researchers seem to think that the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or disoriented and falling victim to the cold. All beekeepers know is that the hives are empty - like little ghost towns.

Aside from producing honey, bees pollinate a variety of plants that are in our food supply. Each year bees pollinate an estimated $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, largely fruits, vegetables and nuts. If there are no bees - then we will have an agricultural disaster on our hands.

So what is going on here?
We do know that bees are dying in such dramatic numbers across the country that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows for sure what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

Some point to GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn which is genetically engineered to kill moths, which is why there is also a decrease in the butterfly populations. They are now looking at the pollen from GMO Corn as the possible cause of the bee die off. There are many anti-GMO websites like this one and other websites that say that GMO grown foods are not a problem. Many European countries have banned importing some GMO grown agriculture.

Some point to an invasion of mites in the colonies which were reported 2 years ago. Mites have damaged bee colonies, and the insecticides used to try to kill the mites are harming the ability of queen bees to spawn as many worker bees. The queens are living half as long as they did just a few years ago.

Others point to overall bee stress.
Bees are being raised to survive a shorter off-season, to be ready to pollinate once the almond bloom begins in February. That likely lowers their immunity to viruses. Researchers are also concerned that the willingness of beekeepers to truck their colonies from coast to coast could be adding to bees' stress.

Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction, and there are reports of similar problems in Germany.

One thing is for certain... any upset in the food chain can spell disaster.
Never mind global warming... we need to help bring back the bees.