Save the Honeybee!


    Those little, buzzing black and yellow things we all tend to shy away from?  Yes, we should try to save them!  A few years ago I was writing a paper about insecticides and it moved toward a paper about colony collapse disorder.  The more information I read on the topic, the more saddened I became.

    What is CCD?
    Simply stated, when a hive has no or a very low number of adult bees, little honey, some brood, the queen bee is still alive and there are no little dead bodies to be found.  The phenomenon was discovered in the U.S. in late 2006 and pursued by David Hackenberg as to the cause of his missing bees (see a related article).  Also deemed "Mad Bee Disease", France experienced the very same problem several years prior to the reported U.S. discovery.

    Why should we care?
    Do you like fruit (and honey, for that matter)?  Pollination is a critical stage in the development of fruits (and nuts).  Without pollination, the flowers of these fruits lose their ability to produce and eventually wither away without an end product.

    Here are some bullets from the USDA:
  • Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. While there are native pollinators (honey bees came from the Old World with European colonists), honey bees are more prolific and the easiest to manage for the large scale pollination that U.S. agriculture requires. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States, and this need is projected to grow to 1.5 million colonies by 2010.
    What can we do?
    While there is no "cure" or solution to the problem, we can contribute to the health of the bees by not using pesticides (or using them sparingly and at an off-peak forging time) and continue to plant gardens for them to forge.

Good reading: 
I read "A Fruitless Fall" by Rowan Jacobson.  It is a very well written book and enjoyable to read.  It covers the life cycle and "jobs" of the different bees in the hive, the honeybee's importance in our society, the impact of such things as pesticides and varroa mites and the story of the beekeepers.

Good sites:

Burt's Bees