A World Without Bees

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A World Without Bees - Time Magazine

The Plight of the Honeybee — article in Time Magazine by Bryan Walsh

You can thank the Apis Mellifera, better known as the Western honey bee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food you'll eat today. From the almond orchards of central California–where each spring billions of honeybees from across the U.S. arrive to pollinate a multibillion-dollar crop–to the blueberry bogs of Maine, the bees are the unsung, unpaid laborers of the American farming system, adding more than $15 billion in value each year. On a world-wide scale figures are even more impressive.

In June, a "Whole Foods" store in Rhode Island (USA), as part of a campaign to highlight the importance of honeybees, temporarily removed from its produce section all the food that depended on pollinators. Of 453 items, 237 vanished, including apples, lemons and zucchini and other squashes. Honeybees "are the glue that holds our agricultural system together," wrote journalist Hannah Nordhaus in her 2011 book.

And now that glue is failing. Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began noticing something disturbing: their honeybees were disappearing. Beekeepers would open their hives and find them full of honeycomb, wax, even honey–but devoid of actual bees. As reports from worried beekeepers rolled in, scientists coined an appropriately apocalyptic term for the mystery malady: colony-collapse disorder (CCD). Suddenly beekeepers found themselves in the media spotlight, the public captivated by the horror-movie mystery of CCD. Seven years later, honeybees are still dying on a scale rarely seen before, and the reasons remain mysterious. One-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared during the past winter, a 42% increase over the year before and well above the 10% to 15% losses beekeepers used to experience in normal winters.

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bees
pollinators
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General Interest