Where Is Thy Sting?

If you haven’t already heard, there is something disturbing going on that might have far-reaching effects on North American agriculture. All over the country, the bees are disappearing.

Beekeeping is an enormously important industry, and not for the reasons you might think. Yes, honey and beeswax are valuable products, but far more crucial to stocking the nation’s larders is the bees’ essential role as pollinators. Beekeepers truck their colonies all over the continent to pollinate crops – fruits, nuts, and vegetables – and without them the production of many of these staple foods at large scales would simply be unfeasible.

But something awful is happening to those bee colonies – the bees are simply vanishing. They fly away and never return; presumably they die in the countyside somewhere, but nobody knows. In some cases beekeepers are reporting 75 percent losses.

Nobody knows yet why this might be happening, but bees have already had to deal with other grievous afflictions in recent years, including tracheal mites, that have put a good deal of strain on the population, and some suggest that their immune systems may have been weakened. A nationwide investigation of this potentially disastrous problem is being coordinated by the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group, based at Penn State University.

You can learn more about this gloomy situation here, and here.

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