The 2008 calendar suggests that another spring has arrived in North America and also the indications of the new season are everywhere. Buds have emerged on trees, heralding the coming of new leaves. The increased daylight and the warming sun act as harbingers for the appearance of flowering plants that will shortly begin their summer cycle of expansion. Nurseries and home improvement stores; such as, Home Depot and Loews, are selling plants, rakes, shovels, mulch, and fertilizer.
Indeed, the recognizable signs of spring are everywhere. But once again this season, there’s a real problem in nature which is tempering agricultural excitement for the upcoming growing season. It’s an issue which was diagnosed in 2006. The issue continues to be the disappearance of the honey bee. Once again there is little progress to report from research into this puzzle surrounding the honey bee named Colony Collapse Infection (CCD).
CCD occurs when all adult bees disappear from the hive, leaving the pollen and honey behind. Few, if any, dead bees are located around the hive. Between 50 and 90% of the commercial honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in the United States have been affected with CCD and the problem is making it difficult for U.S. commercial beekeepers to pollinate crops. It is estimated that up to 70% of honey bees in the United States have just disappeared because of Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem has continued throughout the winter of 2007-2008.
In addition to the continuing problem of CCD, believe news reports indicate significant regional issues with dying honey bees this spring in america. 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, which makes it impossible to process food and the parasitic eventually starves to death.
In general, the various problems with disappearing and dying honey bees are rapidly taking a toll on the complete United States beekeeping industry. It’s been reported that the number of keepers that produce more than 6,000 pounds of honey annually has dropped out of 2,054 in 2005, (the year before keepers began experiencing colony collapse) to about 1,100 annually.
The Fraser Valley produces about one-fifth of the planet’s blueberries, but no longer has a sufficient number of honey bees to support its blueberry pollination, and honey bees are now being imported for pollination.
In England and Wales, proposals to protect honey bees have recently been announced by the government. 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 is now estimated that almost half of Italy’s 50 billion bee population died annually. That bee mortality rate is going to have a drastic influence on the nation’s 25-million-euro honey industry (which could plummet by at least 50% in 2008) and wreak havoc on fruit crops.
The increased cost of energy in food production and transport has led to a world food price inflation of 45 percent in the past nine months alone. There are serious worldwide shortages of wheat, rice, and corn. The rising cost of food has just been responsible for deadly clashes in Egypt, Haiti, and many African states.
However, if the population of the honey bee continues to decrease, worldwide events from higher prices and shortages of food will have only just begun. The pollination of the honey bee is crucial to agriculture and the world’s food supply. Without the honey bee, prices of vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, and dairy prices will all spiral much higher.
The disappearance of the honey bee poses a threat to eating premium ice cream as well. Haagen-Dazs, (owned by General Mills) said bees are responsible for 40% of its 60 flavors, such as strawberry, toasted pecan, and banana split. The business is starting a new flavor this spring named Vanilla Honey Bee to raise consumer awareness about the issue.
The ramifications to our diet and lifestyle are enormous, but government’s reaction to the growing food crisis has been limited and slow. The evaporating honey bee issue hasn’t been discussed in any Presidential debate or in any campaign 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 products. The truth is that Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream might be the only method to bring the candidates attention to a serious, developing, agricultural crisis. A world with no honey bee pollination will produce a food crisis of economic, national, and international ramifications. Indeed, it’s another year without a solution to the problem of disappearing honey bees.