Monday, October 29, 2007

When bees vanish, say goodbye to your fruits and veggies

As I was channel surfing last night waiting for the World Series to begin (yay for the Red Sox!), I came across two separate shows about the mysterious disappearance of honey bees in recent years. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, the cause of the current situation has the scientists somewhat baffled. From Bloomberg:
Colony Collapse Disorder remains an entomological enigma a year after it was first described by U.S. beekeepers. The syndrome, in which bees abandon their hives and die, has been found in at least 35 states, a Canadian province and parts of Europe, Asia and South America. The collapse hurt a quarter of U.S. beekeepers, wiping out 45 percent of their bees on average.
As a gardener, and someone who in general spends a lot of time outdoors, I feel as though I have a pretty good understanding of appreciation for the intricacies of nature. Yet even I have a hard time grasping the impact that the disappearance of honey bees would have on our food sources. But it's not just about honey. If you take a step back from the produce department of your local grocery store and picture the life of that apple you hold in your hand, you'll see what I mean. Virtually all the fruits and vegetables we eat have flowers that are pollinated by bees. Without the pollination step, the plants won't produce fruit. Instead, the flower will simply dry up and fall off.

In normal circumstances, the bee who found this apple flower would buzz on back to the hive and do a nifty little dance telling the other bees where this great orchard of pollen can be found. For some reason, today the bee who goes out, doesn't come back to the hive. Eventually all the worker bees stop coming back, and the colony at that particular hive is gone.

To quote a beekeeper in the CBS 60 Minutes story, “Most of the people in this country have no idea what it takes to put the food on their table.”

Are we all about to find out? You can learn more at the web page for Nature's program, Silence of the Bees.

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