Science

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Honeybee Death Rates on the Rise

May 07, 2008 01:55 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
by Matthew R. Bald
A new survey shows that 36.1 percent of America’s commercial beehives have been lost since last year, a devastating figure that may affect food supplies.

30-Second Summary

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Although this is only the second year that bee health has been surveyed, last year’s probe revealed losses of about 32 percent.

“That's an astonishing number. Imagine if one out of every three cows, or one out of every three chickens, were dying. That would raise a lot of alarm,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, president of the Apiary Inspectors of America, the group who commissioned the survey.

In fact, bees are essential to one-third of the total U.S. food supply. Over 90 crops rely on bees for pollination, without which harvests of widely consumed fruits, nuts and vegetables could fail.

Perhaps most alarming is that most of the hive losses—29 percent according to this latest survey—are the result of a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder.

CCD describes a bee population that suddenly, and inexplicably, abandons its hive, queen and eggs. The first reports of the phenomenon surfaced in 2004, and by June 2007 the Department of Agriculture was calling it “the biggest general threat to our food supply.”

The potentially dire consequences of the disease haven’t escaped governmental attention. Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolf announced Tuesday that the state would provide $20,400 for CCD research at Pennsylvania State University.

Ice-cream maker Häagen-Dazs, which depends on pollinated crops for 40 percent of its 60 flavors, has also awarded $250,000 to CCD researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Davis.

However, the only thing to come of the research so far has been a number of theories implicating pesticides, fungi, parasites, cell phones, genetically modified crops and viruses.

Headline Link: ‘Survey Shows US Honey Bee Deaths Increased over Last Year’

Background: Haagen-Dazs chips in, suspect line-up and the food supply

Opinion & Analysis: Does the honeybee really matter?

Historical Context: 400 years of honeybee history

Reference: Pollinators, pollination, apiculture sites, and a map of affected states

Related Topic: Relying on imported honey

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