Colony Collapse Disorder

Bee, Insect, Animal, Hymenoptera

The 2008 calendar suggests that another spring has arrived in North America and the indications of the new season are everywhere. Buds have emerged on trees, heralding the coming of fresh leaves. The higher daylight and the warming sun act as harbingers for the appearance of flowering plants which will shortly begin their summer cycle of expansion. Nurseries and home improvement stores; for example, Home Depot and Loews, are selling crops, rakes, shovels, compost, and fertilizer.

Indeed, the recognizable signs of spring are everywhere. But once again this year, there’s a real problem in nature that’s tempering agricultural enthusiasm for the upcoming growing season. It’s an issue that was diagnosed in 2006. The issue is still the disappearance of the honey bee. Once again there is little progress to report from research into this puzzle surrounding the honey bee called Colony Collapse Infection (CCD).

CCD happens when all adult bees disappear from the hive, leaving the honey and pollen behind. Few, if any, dead bees are located around the hive. Between 50 and 90% of the commercial honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in america have been affected with CCD and the problem is making it hard for U.S. commercial beekeepers to pollinate crops. About a quarter of beekeeping operations were affected by CCD during the 2006-2007 winter alone. It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of honey bees in the USA have just disappeared because of Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem has continued during the winter of 2007-2008.

Besides the continuing problem of CCD, believe news reports indicate significant regional issues with dying honey bees this spring in the United States. In Hawaii, a microscopic mite is devastating Oahu’s honey bee population and the long term affects could wipe out much of the island’s agriculture. Western Washington State has a growing agricultural crisis as bees are dying from a new pathogen called Nosema Ceranae. This fungus attacks the bee’s gut, making it impossible to process food and the parasitic eventually starves to death.

Generally speaking, the numerous problems with disappearing and dying honey bees are quickly taking a toll on the complete United States beekeeping industry. It’s been reported that the amount of keepers that produce more than 6,000 pounds of honey annually has declined from 2,054 in 2005, (the year before keepers began experiencing colony collapse) to about 1,100 this year.

Internationally, a lack of a sufficient number of honey bees is responsible this spring for issues in blueberry pollination in Canada. The Fraser Valley produces about one-fifth of the world’s blueberries, but no longer has a sufficient number of honey bees to support its blueberry pollination, and honey bees are presently being imported for pollination.

But, bee keepers complain about a lack of research funding and the slow pace of governmental response since the number of honey bees continues in decline.

It’s currently estimated that nearly half of Italy’s 50 billion bee population died last year. That bee mortality rate will have a drastic influence on the country’s 25-million-euro honey sector (which could plummet by at least 50% in 2008) and wreak havoc on fruit plants. The worldwide bee outbreak has also hit France, Germany, Britain, Brazil, and Australia.

The higher cost of energy in food manufacturing and transport has led to a world food price inflation of 45 percent in the last nine months alone. There are serious global shortages of wheat, rice, and corn. The increasing cost of food has recently been responsible for deadly clashes in Egypt, Haiti, and several African states.

However, if the population of the honey bee continues to decline, global events from higher prices and shortages of food will have only just begun. The pollination of the honey bee is vital to agriculture and the world’s food supply.

The disappearance of the honey bee poses a threat to eating premium ice cream also. The company is launching a new flavor this spring named Vanilla Honey Bee to raise consumer awareness about the problem. Proceeds from the sale of this ice cream will be used to finance CCD research.

The ramifications to our lifestyle and diet are enormous, but government’s reaction to the developing food crisis has been slow and limited. The disappearing honey bee issue hasn’t been discussed in any Presidential debate or in any effort forum. In fact, both of our major political parties have been quiet on the issue.

Hopefully, American politicians on the campaign trail in the 2008 United States presidential election like Haagen- Daz solutions. The truth is that Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream might be the only method to bring the candidates attention to some serious, developing, agricultural crisis. A world without sufficient honey bee pollination will produce a food crisis of economic, national, and worldwide ramifications. Indeed, it’s another year with no solution to the problem of disappearing honey bees.

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