Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nature's Warning

Updated below: 2/27

How many of you know how important honeybees are to you everyday. Estimates are that one out of every three bites of food you eat are the result of honeybee activity. While I do not currently have any hives I have been a beekeeper off and on and I come from a long line of them.

Currently in the U.S. and even globally we are witnessing a catastrophic collapse of honeybee populations and the cause is not yet known. We had a honeybee crisis in 2005, which was blamed on the Varoa mite and decimated as much as 50% of honey bee populations in the U.S., but was weathered, overcome, and quickly passed out of most people’s attention. Since that time beekeepers have been recovering, at least until the fall of 2006 when it was discovered that something was again killing off large numbers of colonies. By February of 2007, reports are that that beekeepers from 22 states have reported decimation of hives by as much as 80%, varying in degree of severity. At first glance this may seem trivial but it is going to make a huge impact on your everyday life.

Many of the foodstuffs we depend on daily like fruit, nuts, vegetables, legume, and seed crops depend on pollination by honeybees.

  • One-third of the human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants.
  • 80 percent of insect pollination is accomplished by honey bees.

The current honey bee shortage is going to affect apple growers in Virginia, almond growers in California ( 80% of the global almond supply), cucumber, citrus and watermelon growers in Florida.

These are just some of the crops that require pollination: apples, avocados, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, melons, oranges, grapefruit, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, tangerines, and watermelon. Also, forage plants like clover and alfalfa need pollination. Where's the beef?

This is going to means higher prices for a lot of our everyday food and it is going to be bad news for families especially those with limited budgets.

There's an old farmer's saying that "Nature gives first warnings." While the lowly honeybee may not be on your daily radar let's hope there is a quick solution to the honeybee shortage. I've got rather used to eating.

Flickr photo by dragonseye

Update: The New York Times has picked up the story finally.

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