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article imageDangerous Times Without Bees Could Be Ahead

By KJ Mullins     May 27, 2007 in Environment
The biggest threat to our food supply is on us. The disease that is slowly but surely killing off honey bees in North America and in fact the entire world could soon change the way we eat.
We think of honey bees as just producing honey when they help provide many more crops. Plants such as apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons all rely on bees to pollinate them. With the shrinking population of bees due to the Colony Collapse Disorder we are in danger.
Scientists are struggling to figure out what causes the disease and work on ways to counteract it. In the meantime colony after colony disappears.
We take the little buzzers for granted but without them we will see a less of produce in the very near future. And it's not just humans that will suffer. Farm animals depend on the grains they pollinate too. The alfalfa crops that feed cattle are already being affected.
The problem with the honeybees disappearing is complex. They are not designed to handle viruses. When a wide spread virus appears that attacks the bee population they die. Add in pesticides and parasites and you have a one, two, three countdown of disaster. A mite almost completely wiped out the wild honeybee in the 1990's. These tiny industrial workers are very fragile indeed.
Beekeepers can't keep up either. They are facing millions of dead or disappearing bees. The trade has been overstressed to producing more and more honeybees may have a factor on the recent problems too.
The bees have been taken from being wild and free to virtually farm animals. The stress on their very nature has seen Queen bees aging and dying quicker than they used to. The effects of global warming are another factor. With shorter winters the bees have less down time to produce.
Another concern is that bees are having less and less area to forage for nectar. With new breeds of crops that are seedless growers implement "no-fly zones". It's been seen that the honeybees thrive when they are not limited to where they forage.
With the population of the honeybee dwindling the cost to farms for their pollination is greater adding to the cost of food production.
This year the price for a bee colony is about $135, up from $55 in 2004, said Joe Traynor, a bee broker in Bakersfield, Calif.
The cost of production for the beekeepers rise every year also. A typical colony ranges from 15,000 to 30,000 bees. By the time you factor in the cost of energy supplements and equipment a hive nets $11 a year. That does not include the cost of labour.
By the end of the summer we will have an idea how close to the edge we are with this problem.
Hopefully the bees will make a come back. If not we may soon be a world of bread and water gourmets.
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More about Honeybees, Colony collapse disorder, Other factors
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