Friday, June 27, 2008

Just one more thing to worry about


Being the gluttonous and greedy consumers of everything luxurious that we are, it took a press release from Haagen Dazs Ice Cream to bring this potential disaster to the news media. I'm talking about what that company and others are calling the shocking and dangerous decline of honey bees.
Honey bees mysteriously began to abandon their colonies in 2006, destroying about a third of U.S. hives. The rate of decline is accelerating, reaching 36 percent last winter.
90% of plant life on our planet depends on pollination for survival and honey bees are the single biggest vehicle to make that happen. Bumble bees, moths, butterflies and even bats also contribute to the process and are also declining in astounding numbers. But as the honey bees disappear and fields begin to disappear with them, food prices are expected to soar.
Fruits, nuts, seeds and many vegetables are the foundation of California's $34 billion agricultural industry, the nation's largest, and the basis of a healthy human diet. About a third of human food requires pollination. The plants cannot grow without it.
While scientists have not yet proven the reasons for the problem, research so far has shown what one might expect. Reduced habitat and pesticides, even non-lethal pesticides seem to be the culprits. study of 108 pollen samples revealed 46 pesticides, as many as 17 different pesticides in a single sample. Only three of the samples showed no pesticide residue.
There are 660,000 acres of just almond trees in California's San Joaquin Valley and this massive area of a single crop is also making the situation worse. Seems that the bees, etc. need a more diverse diet to keep them around.
Visalia beekeeper Steve Godlin said 1.3 million honeybee hives are trucked in each spring from around the country to pollinate the California almond crop, which is fast replacing cotton in the Valley. The collapse of honeybee hives and the enormous demand for almond pollination has sent its price soaring.
Surveys have shown that half of the American people aren't even aware that there is a problem. No surprise there. It's not exactly a sexy news story. But it's a real threat to farmers and ultimately to consumers. While comparatively rich Americans will be able to absorb the rising prices, at least in the short term, poorer nations that depend on California and other areas for their fresh fruits and vegetables may be priced right out of the market. Read the whole article for some tips on what you can do to help.

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Blogger Jim Martin said...

There has been a honeybee crisis for more than a decade now but as usual it takes an advertising campaign and profit motive to really get the word out.
The very practices used by commercial pollinators is part of the problem, moving bees from region to region allows diseases to be spread to local hives.
The mite problem was pretty bad but the more recent hive die-off has a lot of people puzzled.
My daughter and I are both hobby apiarists and we feel the problem will have to be dealt with regionally and this will probably be the death knell of the commercial apiarists or at least those that travel the nation following the blooms of spring.

12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

At least the "cell phone frequency" scenario seems to have faded. There was a lot of Luddite lamentation that it was cell phones killing the bees because of some poorly worded report of a probably irrelevant study.

Of course there is no one "cellphone frequency" and other devices transmit at much higher power on those frequencies, and no correlation between areas with higher field strengths and sick bees -- but people don't know.

It is a frightening thing tough.

1:10:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I've been reading about this for a long time. It's worrisome, whatever the cause is. And I wonder about what the pesticide exposure does to the honey.

3:01:00 PM  

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