Where Have All The Honeybees Gone?
A great mystery surrounds the disappearance of billions of honeybee across North America.
An estimated 2.4 million bee hives have been abandoned—that's a quarter of the total known honey-producing and plant-pollinating bee colonies that keep America's sweet tooth satisfied and its agriculture producing fruits and vegetables.
As apiary owners and operators like to point out every third bite of food humans eat is a result of the activity of honeybees. Our food supply depends on bees.
All the more alarming then that so many bees have just vanished -- flying away from the hive never to return and the abandoned hive never re-inhabited by other bees.
What causes the bees to leave their hives is dubbed colony collapse disorder or CCD by entomologists studying the phenomena, and is a subject of much speculation and hypothetical theories. Viral, fungus and bacterial infection was initially suspected, as are pesticides, especially those used to control an earlier scourge of mites that endangered honeybees a decade ago. DNA and other genetic studies continue but so far no biological cause has been found.
Some researchers suspect radiation from cell phone towers, genetically modified crops or high-voltage electrical transmission wires. Sunspots, global warming and other theories round out the list of suspects, but so far no single cause has been found leading to some entomologists to look for a combination of causes.
Whatever the cause, or causes, the syndrome is clear. Apparently healthy bees spontaneously leave the hive, somehow become disoriented and never return.
In CCD cases few if any dead bees are found in or immediately surrounding the hive while the queen and immature bees needing feeding are left to die of neglect.
CCD has been reported in 27 states so far with some beekeepers reporting loss of up to 75 percent their hives. The economic impact of CCD is already enormous. Honey production and pollination services in the US is worth nearly $15 billion a year.
The US and Canada rely heavily on bees to pollinate crops including vegetables, fruit, nuts and soybeans.
The $2.2 billion California almond crop for instance relies 100 percent on bees for pollination.
Bees are essential for the pollination of 90 percent of the cultivated blueberry and apple crops in North America.
A fungus that caused widespread loss of bee colonies in Europe and Asia may be playing a crucial role in the mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder that is wiping out bees across the United States, UC San Francisco researchers said Wednesday. More