Honeybee Mystery: Is this 'bee Armageddon'?

Worldnet DailyNature's most valuable workers mysteriously vanishing out of thin air Posted: April 25, 2010 6:43 pm Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling © 2010 WorldNetDaily

What is devastating the world's honeybees?

In what appears to be a honeybee mystery of Armageddon proportions that has baffled scientists and beekeepers, more than one-third of the nation's bee population is mysteriously disappearing – and researchers warn the unexplained phenomenon threatens one-third of the American diet.

Entire colonies of honeybees are abandoning hives and food stores, including honey and pollen. In collapsed colonies, adult bees mysteriously disappear, and there is no accumulation of dead bees. Even hive pests such as wax moths and hive beetles are nowhere to be found around affected colonies. Likewise, other honeybees are reluctant or unwilling to rob the abandoned hives of honey.

Only days before a honeybee colony collapses, according to Bee Culture Magazine, the colony appears to be strong and fully functional.

Then, it explains, the affliction travels like a wave through a beeyard.

Researchers have termed the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder, a syndrome characterized by sudden disappearance of adult honeybees in a colony.

Why should Americans care?

Experts warn the implications for the world's agriculture are nothing to be ignored: according to the United States Department of Agriculture, a full one-third of the human diet depends on honeybee pollination of crops – especially fruit, nut, vegetable and seed production in the United States.

The list of crops that depend on honeybees is long: almonds, apples, apricots, avocadoes, blueberries, boysenberries, cherries, citrus fruits, cranberries, grapes, kiwi, loganberries, macadamia nuts, nectarines, olives, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, strawberries, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, onions, pumpkins, squash, watermelon, alfalfa hay and seed, cotton lint, cotton seed, legume seed, peanuts, rapeseed, soybeans, sugar beets and sunflowers.

Ohio State University's state honeybee specialist, James Tew, told the Dayton Daily News, "The average person should care. Bees of all species are fundamental to the operation of our ecosystem."

Tew said if bees are unable to pollinate the nation's crops, Americans could be forced to settle for a menu of wheat and corn.

Cindy Kalis, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, told the Daily News an estimated 50 to 70 percent of hives kept by beekeepers died during the 2009-2010 winter season. The state relies on bees to pollinate an estimated $44 million worth of crops.

The Congressional Research Service reports bee pollination is responsible for an estimated $15 billion to $20 billion in added crop value annually – or 23 percent of total U.S. agriculture production in 2006. The California almond industry, worth an estimated $2 billion annually, relies on nearly 1.5 million honeybee hives for cross-pollination. That's approximately one-half of all honeybees in the United States. Almonds are the top California food export and the nation's sixth-largest food export to more than 90 countries.

Beekeepers began noticing unprecedented losses in the U.S. honeybee population in 2006 – when 600,000 bee colonies in the U.S. mysteriously disappeared.

Colony Collapse Disorder by State: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=143737