Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Where have the honeybees gone?

Heads Up! This could be the start of a major emergency.
Reports on the frightening disappearance of thousands of bees have been coming in since 2005 and the situation is worsening.

Since these are the insects that pollinate the flowers of the foods we eat, we will all be affected.

This is a problem in the US that has been reported in around half the states and has now spread to Canada. The UK and eight other European countries also report the same problem: Spain, Poland, Greece, Croatia, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, and Germany.

Jasper Copping reports in the British Telegraph newspaper that in London, over 4,000 hives in London alone, two-thirds of the bees are missing. Sometimes the dead bees are found, but often the bees seem to have simply disappeared. One of the strangest parts of this whole mystery is that, in London at least, no "robber" bees have invaded the empty hives to make off with the stored honey, which is what usually happens when hives are left empty.

In New Scientist, Michael Reilly quotes bee expert May Berenbaum as saying, "Imagine waking one morning to find 80% of the people in your community are just gone." Reilly reports that, "bustling colonies, tens of thousands strong, were emptying in a matter of days. Systematic searches for dead bees around the colonies mostly drew a blank."

As we noted in an earlier story, piles of dead bees have turned up in swimming pools in some locations, but they mostly seem to have vanished into thin air. European honeybees, the kind that pollinate our crops, are susceptible to several kinds of parasites. One of these killed about half the US bee population in the 1980s. Tests on the dead bees they have been able to find do not reveal that they died from pesticide exposure.

In Linda Howe's report will quote a researcher who thinks these bees may be affected by genetically-modified crops. Copping quotes John Chapple, head of the London Beekeepers Association, as saying, "It's frightening. The mortality rate is the highest in living memory and no one seems to know what's behind it."