April 6th 2011 Posted at General
For some years honeybee losses have been reported by beekeepers in the US. They expect to lose around 14.5 % of their bee populations over winter, but 65% of beekeepers who took part in the survey from fall 2009 to winter 2010 reported losses of bee colonies that were in excess of the acceptable figures. Dennis VanEngelsdorp and a team of researchers undertook research and reported their findings in “A Survey of managed honey bee colonies in USA fall 2009 to winter 2010.”
They suggest that there are several factors which have contributed to the loss of bee colonies, and the year researched was the fourth consecutive one to see high winter losses. Bees characteristically return to their hives, but beekeepers report that many have failed to do so. This may be because they have been disorientated by electromagnetic sources such as power lines, or because they have been adversely affected by pesticides, herbicides and insecticides which farmers use on their food crops, which bees pollinate.
Bees are also becoming more vulnerable to parasites and mites and a chronic bee paralysis disorder has struck some colonies, causing the colony to collapse. This disorder was reported by Renee Johnson in a report to Congress commissioned by the Congressional Research Service in January 2010. The current research investigated the possibility of this disorder being one of the causes for honey bee losses, and found it to be a contributory factor.
Parasites and viral infections in combination put stress on honeybee colonies and affect the bees’ immune systems. Because of these the bees’ complex social systems are compromised leading to bee deaths. Contaminated water supplies are also a contributory factor as is the fact that some bees feed on crops which have a low nutritional value, so they cannot survive the winter months when there is no food to be had. Some bees also suffer from migratory stress and overcrowding of the colony as well as pollen or nectar scarcity because of a decreasing number of flowering plants because land has been used for building or because of bad management of the eco-systems which bees need to survive.
It is estimated that honeybees and other pollinators are worth $15-$20 billion annually as they are chiefly responsible for the food crops we rely on.
So, does this mean that bee decline and the absence of other promising pollinators could eventually lead us to world starvation and ceasure of royal jelly production? We surely hope that this is not the case and urge the world leaders to look into the reasons for bee decline on a global scale.
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