Dim Outlook for Honeybees…and Food

HoneybeesOnCombHoneybee loss may not even register on the list of present and future concerns for most people, but it should. One-third of the food we consume is directly linked to the buzzing little workaholics we have long taken for granted, notes David Epstein, an entomologist with the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy.

Right now a major crisis is playing out in the California almond fields, where producers are 200,000 to 300,000 hives short of enough bees to pollinate their crops. According to Nick Calderone of Cornell University, quoted on agweb.com, commercial bee pollinators amount to a whopping direct $11.7 bil annually in the agriculture industry and $5.4 bil indirectly.

Farmers who most depend on commercial bee pollinators are in a near panic stage because the bees are simply not available to meet the demand.

They are not available because bees have been dying off all over the globe at the rate of ten to thirty percent a year since colony collapse disorder was first identified in 2006. The rate of bee loss is now exacerbated by the weather extremes of the last two years.

Theories and accusations have been hot and heavy since the appearance of CCD, but most likely there are several reasons for bee loss, all basically relating to environmental factors. Bees are touchy and fine-tuned little critters that apparently react severely to the many changes in their natural world.

Some of the factors scientists conclude are contributing to CCD include: weather extremes causing habitat loss and fragmentation, improper nutrition, parasites and invasive species, intensive use of agricultural pesticides, genetically modified plants and poisons, and viruses and infections (20 new diseases have been identified since 2006, according to Alex Pietrowski of Wakingtimes.com).

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, the EPA is ready to approve another deadly pesticide (sulfoxaflor) known to be harmful to bees.

Novelist Cynthia Ozick once pronounced, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” Taking the fragile honeybee and its vital functions for granted is an act of neglect that may one day soon rise up and bite us painfully where it hurts the most.

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