Steve Sampson reports that a mysterious ailment is killing America’s honeybees. And we (as in all countries) may be affected, too.
Bees are the worldwide workhorses of managed pollination. They play a vital role in the production of commercially grown crops, pollinating everything from apples, blueberries, and cherries to almonds and zucchini. They also pollinate crops like clover and alfalfa, used to feed the animals we eat.
Of course, bees aren’t nature’s only pollinators. Other insects, birds, and even bats carry pollen between male flower parts and female ones. And most of our major food grains are pollinated by the wind. But when bees call in sick, many, many plants we need to grow go on birth control.
But the bees are disappearing and no one knows what’s driving the die-off, but it does have a name: colony collapse disorder (CCD). Beekeepers first reported CCD in late 2006. Basically, they returned to their hives to find whole colonies devoid of adult bees. The adult bees’ bodies were nowhere to be found, either. They had simply disappeared.
Die-offs of that scale have happened before–notably after the arrival of a parasitic mite in the 1980s. But scientists can’t yet say if CCD is related, or if it’s something entirely new.
In fact, scientists know hardly anything about CCD–though they’re working to solve the mystery. At least this much is certain: these are hard times for honeybees.