The 2008 calendar indicates that another spring has arrived in North America and also the signs 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 which 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 familiar signs of spring are everywhere. But once again this season, there’s a real problem in nature that’s tempering agricultural enthusiasm for the upcoming growing season. It’s a problem which 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 called Colony Collapse Disorder (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 afflicted with CCD and the problem is making it difficult for U.S. commercial beekeepers to pollinate plants. It’s estimated that up to 70% of honey bees in the USA have just disappeared because of Colony Collapse Disorder. The problem has continued throughout the winter of 2007-2008.
In addition to the ongoing problem of CCD, consider that news reports indicate significant regional problems with dying honey bees this spring in america. Western Washington State has a developing agricultural crisis as bees are dying from a new pathogen named Nosema Ceranae. This fungus attacks the bee’s gut, making it impossible to process food and the parasitic eventually starves to death.
In general, the numerous problems with disappearing and dying honey bees are rapidly taking a toll on the complete United States beekeeping industry. It has been reported that the number of keepers who produce more than 6,000 pounds of honey annually has declined from 2,054 in 2005, (the year before keepers started experiencing colony collapse) to approximately 1,100 annually.
Internationally, a lack of a sufficient number of honey bees is responsible this spring for problems in blueberry pollination in Canada. The Fraser Valley produces about one-fifth of the planet’s blueberries, but no longer has a sufficient number of honey bees to encourage its blueberry pollination, and honey bees are presently being imported for pollination.
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 is currently estimated that nearly half of Italy’s 50 billion bee population died annually. That bee mortality rate will have a drastic effect on the country’s 25-million-euro honey sector (which could plummet by 50% in 2008) and wreak havoc on fruit plants.
The higher cost of energy in food manufacturing and transport has already led to a world food price inflation of 45 percent in the last nine months alone. There are serious worldwide shortages of rice, wheat, and corn. The increasing cost of food has recently been in charge of deadly clashes in Egypt, Haiti, and many African states.
But if the population of the honey bee continues to decline, worldwide events from higher prices and shortages of food will have only just started. The pollination of the honey bee is vital to agriculture and the world’s food supply. With no honey bee, prices of vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, and dairy prices will spiral much higher.
The disappearance of the honey bee poses a threat to ingesting premium ice cream also. Haagen-Dazs, (owned by General Mills) said bees are responsible for 40 percent of its 60 flavors, such as strawberry, toasted pecan, and banana split. The company is launching a new flavor this spring called Vanilla Honey Bee to raise consumer awareness about the issue.
The ramifications to our lifestyle and diet are enormous, but government’s response to the growing 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 quiet on the problem.
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 may be the only method to bring the candidates attention to a serious, developing, agricultural crisis. A world with no honey bee pollination will create a food crisis of economic, national, and worldwide ramifications. Indeed, it is another year without a solution to the problem of disappearing honey bees.