Stories tagged ?38:3;2

Mar
02
2007

Bye, bye bees?: The mysterious disappearance of large portions of honey bee populations in 22 states have scientists trying to figure out where they're going. (Photo courtesy BugMan50)
Bye, bye bees?: The mysterious disappearance of large portions of honey bee populations in 22 states have scientists trying to figure out where they're going. (Photo courtesy BugMan50)
It’s not a very good time to be a honey bee.

Beekeepers in 22 states across the country have reported huge disappearances of their bees. And it’s a total mystery as to where they’ve gone.

I saw a report about this on the CBS Evening News a few weeks ago and have since seen more press accounts of the situation. And no one seems to know what’s really going on.

"Colonies are going down. The bees aren't dead in the box or aren't out front," said Jerry Bromenshenk, a bee researcher at the University of Montana in the CBS report. "They've just disappeared. Just vanished."

While parasites and disease have depleted bee populations in the past, there were traces of the dead bees left behind for scientists to analyze and figure out what’s happened. In these cases, huge numbers of bees kept by beekeepers, hundreds of hives and thousands of bees, within just a few days.

The loss of so many bees could have a huge impact on our human food chain. One of every three food items we chuck into our mouths each day is the direct result of the work of honey bees.

They’re hard work of popping from flower to flower pollinates the plants that give us vegetables and fruits we eat each day. Without the bees, and that pollinating action, those plants won’t bear their fruits.

Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman looked a the situation a couple days ago. Talking to a researcher at the University of Minnesota, he discovered that some of our large-scale agricultural practices may be “burning out” bees on their vital work.

Dr. Marla Spivak says that monoculture farming – the practice of planting one time of crop in a huge field for years and years – has led to a reduction in the amount of honey a bee colony produces. Over the past few years, that average has dipped from 100 pounds a year to 80.

On top of that, he points to the large-scale commercial beekeeping colonies where bees are trucked around the country to do pollination work around the country. They’re maybe being stretched too far in their work.
Also, the problems don’t seem to be impacting hobby beekeepers here in Minnesota. I didn’t know it, but Minnesota is one of the top five honey-producing states in the country, and the vast majority of those bees are tended by amateur keepers.