Lewis Diuguid

Continuing deaths of honeybees threaten crop production in U.S.

A bee flies back to a swarm in an oak tree in Salina, Kan. New honeybee colonies are formed when a queen bee leaves a colony with many worker bees. Spring is when swarming usually occurs but can happen any time during the producing season. During that spring migration, the old queen and her thousands of worker bees search for new suitable nesting places to begin new colonies. Periodically, they will stop to rest, often in places occupied by humans. The swarm will meld together, surrounding and protecting the queen bee.
A bee flies back to a swarm in an oak tree in Salina, Kan. New honeybee colonies are formed when a queen bee leaves a colony with many worker bees. Spring is when swarming usually occurs but can happen any time during the producing season. During that spring migration, the old queen and her thousands of worker bees search for new suitable nesting places to begin new colonies. Periodically, they will stop to rest, often in places occupied by humans. The swarm will meld together, surrounding and protecting the queen bee. The Associated Press

You know the planet is in trouble and human activity is a likely culprit when essential creatures like the honeybees are fighting to stay alive.

Beekeepers in the United States have noted that 42 percent of the honeybees they managed last year died, the Los Angeles Times reports. You can only imagine what’s happening to the hives that are in the wild.

The reported honeybee death is the second highest percentage since the survey began in 2010. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that honeybees are an essential part of agricultural production. The bees pollinate plants.

“Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination,” the USDA website says. “Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables depend on pollination by honeybees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor and nutrition.”

An interesting fact is that honeybees are not native to the Americas. European settlers brought them here, although there have always been other pollinators. The honeybees are just better at it and easier to manage.

But the number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to 2.5 million today. Yet the call for pollination services continues to increase.

Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact cause of what’s been called Colony Collapse Disorder. But it is an ongoing and growing problem.

“Since the 1980s, honeybees and beekeepers have had to deal with a host of new pathogens from deformed wing virus to nosema fungi, new parasites such as Varroa mites, pests like small hive beetles, nutrition problems from lack of diversity or availability in pollen and nectar sources, and possible sublethal effects of pesticides,” the USDA notes. “These problems, many of which honey bees might be able to survive if each were the only one, are often hitting in a wide variety of combinations, and weakening and killing honeybee colonies.

“CCD may even be a result of a combination of two or more of these factors and not necessarily the same factors in the same order in every instance.”

Food safety and environmental groups have sought to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. The European Union two years ago had several neonocotinold chemicals banned, but a replacement with other pesticides has caused an infestation of insects in some crops.

Despite the bee deaths, the population for the last 10 years has remained fairly stead. That’s because beekeepers are spending more time and money replacing hives.

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