Disappearing Bees Threaten Food Supply (UPDATED)


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For a couple hundred years, there have been reports of bee keepers finding hives completely empty of bees: Not just no live bees, but no dead bees either. Recently, the rate of this phenomenon occurring has markedly increased.

The impact of these disappearances, if trends continue, could threaten our food supply as bees play an important role in agriculture. Farmers hire bee keepers to pollinate their crops. A scarcity of bees will drive up the price of pollination.

Many worry that what's shaping up to be a honeybee catastrophe will disrupt the food supply. While staple crops like wheat and corn are pollinated by wind, some 90 cultivated flowering crops – from almonds and apples to cranberries and watermelons – rely heavily on honeybees trucked in for pollinization. Honeybees pollinate every third bite of food ingested by Americans, says a Cornell study. Bees help generate some $14 billion in produce.

The rise in disappearances is so rapid that scientists are having a difficult time pinning down a cause. In the past year, in 24 states, keepers have reported loses between 50 and 90 percent.

While many other species can pollinate the crops pollinated by trucked in bees, human development has erased much of their habitats.

Are we in danger of having to pay import prices for food we've been growing domestically for generations?

UPDATE

AOL News finally got around to paying attention to this issue and have written an extensive and thought provoking article on the topic. One new point they raise is that this is not isolated to the U.S. but is happening in Brazil, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere.

One concerned reader wrote me with a theory I have not heard elsewhere. They blamed the issue on Ozone depletion, claiming that a rise in ultraviolet radiation is harming the bees. Can't say that I agree with the theory, but it makes more sense than cell phones being to blame.

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