What’s a bee cost to America? More than $15 billion.
Eighty percent of the United States’ flowering crops are pollinated by honeybees, that makes up a third of all food we eat. Many nuts, fruits, and vegetables are heavily reliant on these little black and yellow critters. Even the US beef industry depends on honeybees. Bees pollinate alfalfa, which is a huge source of feed for cattle. If the number of bee colonies declined enough, the cost of food for most Americans would severely hurt their wallet.
Again. What’s a bee cost to America? More than money. The lives we know exist on the work of bees. If by a snap of the fingers honeybees were to disappear, we could say goodbye to many of the sources of food we live off of.
In late 2006, beekeepers began to report losses of 30 and up to 90 percent of their hives during winter. The bees weren’t being found dead in their hives, they had simply disappeared. The losses have more or less continued since. The trend was coined as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
As defined by the US Department of Agriculture: “The main symptom of CCD is very low or no adult honey bees present in the hive but with a live queen and no dead honey bee bodies present. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present.”
In the years since, lots of time, effort, and capital have been invested in finding out the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. At the moment, the USDA reports that the cause or causes of CCD have not yet been identified by researches. That however, may just be the USDA reacting slowly as is common with government agencies.
Some scientists have been casting the blame of CCD on a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids (neo-nico-tin-oids). A new study by Harvard University suggest that the ability of bees to survive the cold is lessened by the effects of neonicotinoids.
“In the honey bee study, they put a little bit of the neonicotinoid on a bee and they can track how quickly the bee comes back,” said Dr. Alex Lu, who works with environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “And they found out that the amount of time for them to complete one trip is increased according to the dosage they give to them. Eventually the bee lost the way to go home.”
Scientists in Canada are actively working on getting neonicotinoids banned – a move they hope to see spread globally.
While scientists the world over are acting to find a cause of CCD, the USDA offers insight into what the public can do to help:
The best action the public can take to improve honey bee survival is not to use pesticides indiscriminately. In particular, the public should avoid applying pesticides during mid-day hours, when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar and pollen on flowering plants.
In addition, the public can plant pollinator-friendly plants—plants that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as red clover, foxglove, bee balm, joe-pye weed, and other native plants. (For more information, visit www.nappc.org.)
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