Monday, March 31, 2008

Agri – Culture: To bee or not to bee

The honey-bee that wanders all day long,
The field, the woodland, and the garden o'er,
To gather in his fragrant winter store,
Humming in calm content his quiet song,
Seeks not alone the rose's glowing breast,
The lily's dainty cup, the violet's lips, --
But from all rank and noxious weeds he sips
The single drop of sweetness closely press'd
Within the poison chalice. Thus, if we
Seek only to draw forth the hidden sweet,
In all the varied human flowers we meet,
In the wide garden of humanity,
And like the bee, if home the spoil we bear,
Hived in our hearts it turns to nectar there.

by Anne Lynch Botta

With the warmth of spring just around the corner and the flowering of fruit trees looming, we will almost assuredly see some sort of media attention given to that tiny but significant insect, the honey bee.
What's all the buzz about? The pollination of crops by bees is responsible for more than a third of the U.S. food production. Unfortunately, our six-legged friends are in trouble and no one has answers.

The first case of CCD – Colony Collapse Disorder was reported in 2006. The disorder has beekeepers perplexed when they check their colonies in early spring. In some cases the entire colony has died and in other cases, the entire colony has disappeared.

A dead bee is one thing. Scientists suggest mites and other viruses as being deadly and contagious to apiaries. But, bees that have just disappeared?

There are many potential culprits to blame for CCD. Firstly, bees are an insect and are therefore affected by things like insecticides and other chemicals sprayed on crops. Bees are not immune to climatic conditions and things like drought will affect a plants ability to produce nectar (bee food). My personal favorite excuse is electromagnetic radiation from cell phones.

Maybe the most logical is a combination of all factors. Combine with a weakened immune system, the bees can’t resist diseases they once overcame. Bee immune systems may have become weakened through constant transport of hives. Hives are rented out to pollinate crops and will be transported from one side of the U.S. to the other. This is a crucial element of U.S. agriculture and annually adds much more to the economy than the production of honey.

The CCD problem is not limited to the U.S. but is being faced by beekeepers around the globe. CCD is not only devastating to beekeepers but has devastating potential consequences to the production of carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, squash, apples, blueberries, avocados, almonds, cherries and a host of other agricultural products.

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