Bees Facing Catastrophic Epidemic
A mysterious ailment is having a catastrophic effect on the nation’s bee population.
A mysterious disease is killing off U.S. honeybees, threatening to disrupt pollination of a range of crops and costing beekeepers hundreds of thousands of dollars, industry experts said on Monday.
Beekeepers in 22 states have reported losses of up to 80 percent of their colonies in recent weeks, leaving many unable to rent the bees to farmers of crops such as almonds and, later in the year, apples and blueberries.
Researchers from state and federal agriculture agencies have been frustrated in their search for a cause because affected hives are often empty except for the queen and a few bees.
The number of bees in a hive typically diminishes over a period of days to the point where there are very few or none left, Hackenberg said. There is no indication of where the bees have gone or what drove them away, he said.
“The rate of loss is startling,” said Jeff Pettis, a bee researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland.
This is a rather disturbing development. Large sectors of the nation’s agricultural output is dependent on pollination by honeybees, and a significant decline in population can affect harvests to the tune of billions of dollars. Hopefully the cause of this population destruction can be isolated and a cure developed in short order. It’s tough to say how parts of the industry might cope if the bee population continues to dwindle.