Reports are still sketchy and investigations are underway but one thing is clear since last summer the North American bee population has decreased by 40, 60, and even as much as 70 percent in some areas. Hundreds of millions of bees disappeared and/or died over the winter. Honey farms across the county are reporting thousands of hives decimated and not one person, farmer or scientist, can conclusively explain why.
Theories are flying and speculations range from cell phone signals messing with the bees communications to each other, to a bee version of a pandemic such as Aids. Even abusive handling, antibiotics, or pesticides could be forcing them to lose their natural defenses. No matter the cause the result is unmistakable.
For most, the problem isn't what are we gonna do to help the bees, but rather, who is going to pollinate the millions of acres of agriculture this summer now that the bee population is MIA?
Unfortunately the news of the population's collapse came a little too late for California's most lucrative crop the almond groves. Farmers are reporting a record decline in growth of the almond trees this year and attribute this decline to the lack of free labor provided by the worker bees. In addition the fruit farms such as oranges and apples are also showing serious signs of demise. Florida's orange farmers are clamoring.
This of course is not to mention that if you like a little honey in your tea you might have to pony up some dough this year to get it as the honey farmers are losing almost everything.
Bees are an active species in the overall ecosystem and they travel long distances as different flowers bloom to offer them their much coveted nectar to produce their honey. Commercial farmers increase this migration by packing the hives in trucks and moving them about the country to fertilize the various crops as the seasons change. As this man made migration travels, bees perform the necessary function of fertilizing nearly all the crops in the United States. If the plants aren't fertilized then they cannot produce the various seed products that humans and many other animals consume. It is estimated as much as 90% of America's crops will be affected this summer by this lack of free migrant labor.
Autopsies are underway to determine the cause of what scientists are dubbing "Colony Collapse Disaster" and preliminary reports are grim to say the least. Those remaining bees studied are showing indications that they are riddled with viruses and diseases. One particularly being the Aspergillus virus affecting them only because the honeybees' immune systems are nearly completely broken down. In addition the worker bees are not returning to their hives and the living ones seem lost and wander around as if they're unable to maintain any sense of direction or communication.
This is not the first time that bee populations have taken serious hits to their numbers but it most certainly is the most severe in the 200 hundred years that records have been kept. It is such an issue that a hearing has even made its way to the floor of the House in Washington focusing on nothing less than the nation's food supply.
Needless to say don't swat the bees this summer and if you see one in your house or your car try to let him out because he might be one of the only ones left still providing you with food.
Copyright © 2010 Charles Harmison
The flowers are here, now where have all the honeybees gone?
Copyright © 2010 Charles Harmison
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