Bees have been disappearing and at an alarming rate, threatening not only their livelihoods but also the production of many crops.
“I have never seen anything like it,” Mr. Bradshaw, 50, said from an almond orchard in California. “Box after box are just empty. There’s nobody home.”
The sudden mystifying losses are highlighting the crucial link that honeybees play in the long chain that gets fruit and vegetables to supermarkets and dinner tables across the world.
Beekeepers have fought regional bee crises before, but this is the first national affliction.
Now, in a mystery worthy of Sherlock Homes, bees are disappearing in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their hives. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are likely dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.
As researchers try to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.
A Cornell University study has estimated that honeybees annually pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States, mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. “Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food,” said Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation.
“There are less beekeepers, less bees, yet more crops to pollinate,” Mr. Browning said. “While this sounds sweet for the bee business, with so much added loss and expense due to disease, pests and higher equipment costs, profitability is actually falling.”
What can we do?
National Pollinator Week is the last week in June. You, your children and your community groups can become Pollinator Partnership participants and make a difference through actions as simple as creating pollinator-friendly habitat in your back yard! This includes:
• Plant for pollinators in your yard, garden, farm, ranch, local community.
• Reduce your impact on the environment
• Get involved as a Pollinator Partner
• Learn about bees and other pollinators – and teach others of their importance
View video of bee decline at www.wineandfoodtube.com