The 2008 calendar indicates another spring has arrived in North America and also the indications of the new season are everywhere. Buds have appeared on trees, heralding the arrival of fresh leaves. The higher daylight and the warming sun act as harbingers for the appearance of flowering plants that will soon begin their summer cycle of growth. Nurseries and home improvement stores; such as, Home Depot and Loews, are selling crops, rakes, shovels, compost, and fertilizer.
Indeed, the familiar signs of spring are everywhere. However, once again this year, there’s a real problem in nature that’s tempering agricultural enthusiasm for the upcoming growing season. It is an issue that was first identified 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 honey and pollen behind. Few, if any, dead bees are found 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 plants. About a quarter of beekeeping operations were affected by CCD during the 2006-2007 winter alone. It’s estimated that up to 70% of honey bees in the United States have just disappeared due to Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem has continued throughout 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 catastrophic 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 catastrophe 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 various 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 who 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.
In England and Wales, proposals to protect honey bees have recently been announced by the authorities. But, bee keepers complain of a lack of research funding and the slow pace of governmental response since the amount of honey bees continues in decline.
It’s now estimated that nearly half of Italy’s 50 billion bee population died last year. That bee mortality rate will have a drastic effect on the country’s 25-million-euro honey sector (which could plummet by at least 50% in 2008) and wreak havoc on fruit crops. The worldwide bee outbreak has also hit France, Germany, Britain, Brazil, and Australia.
The higher cost of energy in food production and transportation has already led to a world food price inflation of 45 percent in the past nine months alone. There are serious global shortages of rice, wheat, and corn. The increasing 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. With no honey bee, prices of vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, and dairy prices will all spiral much greater.
The disappearance of the honey bee poses a threat to ingesting premium ice cream also. The company is starting a new flavor this spring named Vanilla Honey Bee to raise consumer awareness about the issue. Proceeds from the sale of the ice cream will be used to fund CCD research.
The ramifications to our lifestyle and diet are enormous, but government’s reaction to the developing food crisis has been limited and slow. The disappearing honey bee issue hasn’t been discussed in any Presidential debate or in any effort forum. In actuality, both of our major political parties have been silent on the problem.
Hopefully, American politicians on the campaign trail in the 2008 United States presidential election like Haagen- Daz products. The reality is that Vanilla Honey Bee ice cream might be the only way to bring the candidates focus on some serious, developing, agricultural crisis. A world with no honey bee pollination will create a food crisis of economic, national, and international ramifications. Indeed, it’s another year without a solution to the problem of disappearing honey bees.