Where are the bees going?

Where are the bees going?
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2008 6:58 PM CDT
Honey may soon be more valuable than oil. Scientists worldwide are concerned about the disappearance of honeybees. Their concerns are well founded.

Bees do a lot more for the food chain than provide honey. Beyond that, they are also important to the overall environment.

The United States Department of Agriculture reported that 22 states are reporting vanishing bee populations. Appearing before Congress, a member of the California State Beekeepers Association said about 40 percent of his 2,000 colonies have died. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that there are 25 percent fewer beehives than during the 1980’s. This has caused an impact among beekeepers since they now number half of what they previously have been.

What is causing the disappearance of bees? Agricultural experts are largely mystified. During winter many bees usually die. However, that is not necessarily the case now. According to many experts bees are just plain disappearing. Some scientists are blaming climate changes. Another possible reason, say others, could be the varroa mite, which feeds on honeybees. Some agricultural experts say new diseases may be claiming the bee population. At any rate, a full explanation is still illusive, but concern is mounting.

From an economic standpoint, our pocketbooks are going to suffer a shortage, along with the bee population. Food prices could skyrocket because of the disappearance of the honeybee. Not only the price of a jar of honey, but other foodstuffs as well. A news item crossed my desk recently that Haagen-Dazs, the big ice cream maker, said the price of their product could be affected. The Nestle Corporation owns haagen-Dazs, and company officials said honeybees contribute about 40 percent to its 60 ice cream flavors. A company official said many of the ice cream flavor ingredients come from California, so it is hoped solution to the honeybee disappearance can be found soon. The firm has given a large scientific donation to the University of California, Davis to help find the answer.

There are many food products that rely on bee pollination. One is the California almond crop, which contributes over two billion dollars to the economy. Another is apple. Actually the disappearance of the bee population is not really a new problem. France has been concerned about a decreasing bee population for a generation. Also some Middle East nations have been affected. Even Iraq has noticed a change and some blame the effects of war such as burning powder affecting the bee population.

One of the biggest concerns is the environment. Some scientists fear an elimination of a complete species, the honeybee, or maybe bees in general. Bees are vital for the pollination of plants and flowers. Not just honey would be affected, but the future of many plants would be in jeopardy. This could affect general world health, not just food prices but also the ecosystem in general. Numerous scientists speculate not only would the bee species become extinct but also various other animal life as well.

At this time the answer to the problem seems far off. But the United States congress is looking into the matter, along with leaders here in California. There may be multiple causes, consisting of both the actions of mankind and perhaps even nature. But the loss of honeybees, even a temporary loss, can cause problems for us all.

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