“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 EinsteinA few days ago, I read an article that raises an alarm about something that must become a top priority for the global community. Our bee populations are under siege and we need to figure out why quickly and reverse the damage or harden the bee population.
Honeybees are vanishing at an alarming rate from 24 US states, threatening the production of numerous crops.
The cause of the losses, which range from 30% to more than 70%, is a mystery, but experts are investigating several theories.
American bee colonies have been hit by regional crises before, but keepers say this is the first national crisis.
Bees pollinate more than $14bn (£7bn) worth of US seeds and crops each year, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Box after box after box are just empty. There's nobody home
David Bradshaw, Beekeeper
The mystery disappearances highlight the important link that honeybees play in the chain that brings fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and dinner tables.
The crisis threatens numerous crops, from avocados to kiwis and California almonds - one of the most profitable in the US.
"I have never seen anything like it," California beekeeper David Bradshaw, 50, told the New York Times.
"Box after box after box are just empty. There's nobody home."
With an industry increasingly under consolidation, some fear the disorder could prove the breaking point for even large beekeepers.
The bee losses range from 30 to 60% on the West Coast, with some beekeepers on the East Coast and in Texas reporting losses of more than 70%.
Beekeepers consider a loss of up to 20% in the offseason to be normal.
Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.
"The real question is why they leave," Jerry Hayes, a bee expert for the Florida Department of Agriculture told the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.
"Bees are highly social insects. They don't leave their babies and the queen."
The investigators are exploring a range of possibilities to explain the losses, which they are calling "colony collapse disorder". These include viruses, a fungus and poor bee nutrition.
They are also studying pesticides banned in some European countries to see if they are affecting the bees' innate ability to navigate their way back to their hives.
In some cases, bees are being raised to survive a shorter offseason, to be ready to pollinate once the almond bloom begins in February. This could have lowered their immunity to viruses.
Mites have also damaged bee colonies, and the insecticides used to try to kill them are harming the ability of queen bees to spawn as many workers.
Read the entire article. This is a non-trivial issue. Our food supply may be in grave danger if this continues.