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Scientists still concerned about dying honey bees

By idaflo | September 25th, 2010 | No Comments » 

They’re not just bugs, we rely on bees for our food. Thus, our well-being is tied up with theirs. “European honey bees, act as nature’s propagator’s of 75% of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and most everything that is fresh-harvested for human consumption. Approximately 100 crops are dependent upon pollination by bees or else they would fail to produce anything more than foliage.

By Jean Williams

Environmental Policy Examiner – examiner.com

For the better part of a decade, honey bees have been disappearing in many areas of the world and scientists are still trying to discover why.

In the face of global warming, economic recovery, unemployment, and the instability of our current political system, people may ask: What’s the big deal about a few missing bees?

It is a very big deal.

European honey bees, act as nature’s propagator’s of 75% of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and most everything that is fresh-harvested for human consumption. Approximately 100 crops are dependent upon pollination by bees or else they would fail to produce anything more than foliage.

According to beekeepers in the Western regions, there has been a gradual reduction of bee hive populations for years, but in 2007 a massive die-off got the world’s attention. It was reported to be a loss of 30-70% of hives of European honey bee colonies in the U.S. and parts of Canada.

The phenomenon was labeled Colony Collapse Disorder.

According to a recent PBS report, CCD has now spread to China, South America, and India.
Scientists now believe that CCD is a syndrome, rather than a disease and it may be caused by a combination of environmental and physiological factors.

Furthermore, in 2009, scientists discovered that an indicator for an impaired protein production is a common denominator in bees affected by CCD. It is still undetermined what may cure the problem.
Empty hives not only bode poorly for agriculture, but an entire industry of beekeepers, who make their living with contracts to transfer their hives to fields and orchards for the pollination services the worker-bees provide–have been economically devastated.

In some areas of England, stealing hives for the black market has begun to take hold. In Staffordshire a theft of 18 hives—about 800,000 bees, was stolen, depriving the owner of income from pollinating services and honey sales.

In addition, on September 15, 2010, about $10,000 worth of honey was stolen from David Neel of Freeland, Washington, depriving him and his family of that income. All of his bees were left, but trays full of honey were taken and empty trays were left in their place, leaving authorities to believe that another experienced bee keeper stole the honey. The honey will most likely be sold under another label, making it difficult to track the thief.

The loss of honey bees could have an enormous horticultural and economic affect on the world’s food supply.

In a related situation, bats have been disappearing, with a similar mysterious type of colony collapse. Bats eat tons of insects that can cause extensive damage to agricultural crops.

According to a 2010 study by the British Beekeepers Association, 80% of the bee population in their region made it through the severe winter, which offers some good news, but many experts agree that if the bees and bats were to disappear–the impact on the human race would be catastrophic.

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