As far as influencers of the human’s food chain go, honeybees are at the top, so a bee shortage really hurts us. They influence our foods by pollinating our vegetables, nuts, flowers and fruits. In a situation when the crops which depend on honeybees are increasing each year, bee colonies are decreasing in numbers, and they’ve been doing so since the 40’s.
Losses of large bee populations are quite common, at least on a scale as large as the last century. Despite this, scientists don’t think that the bee shortage is caused by something that happened before. They believe it’s something new.
All over the country bees are disappearing. Out of over 2.4 million colonies, over 25% have disappeared so far, and the causes aren’t known. The American Apiary Inspectors say that we’re talking about bees counting in tens of billions. In a short time period, between the fall of 2006 and the spring of 2007, a number of beekeepers lost a quarter of all their bee colonies, triggering a bee shortage that is getting worse now.
The first time the information started reaching scientists was late fall 2006, when one beekeeper announced an entomologist that he lost over half of his bees.
The other name for the phenomenon that causes the bee shortage is colony collapse disorder and it’s related to the disappearance of a colony in a short time span of just a few days. Doctor Foster Cox was the one that named this disorder, and he is the leading researcher in a team that tries to find the answers to the bee shortage. Right now, they believe that there are three possible causes for the bee shortage: a pesticide, a fungus or a virus.
Though bees have their own enemies (varroa mite come to mind), they don’t seem to be responsible for the bee shortage.
The United States isn’t the only country with this problem. There are plenty of other countries with the same problem, from Europe and from other parts of the world. It isn’t known yet if the bee shortage has the same cause in all these areas.
There are a few substances that cause environmental issues and researches take into consideration. Researchers fear that chemicals go through the circulatory system and reach the bees, through the flowers and leaves.
At the end of the 20th century, beekeepers from France reported that their bee numbers took a huge dive, and they thought that the cause was neonicotinois, a chemical compound group. Imidacloprid is part of this group and it’s a pesticide that is used all the time in Europe and America. It has a number of uses, like keeping pests away from home lawns, golf courses and residential foundations.
This substance had the name Gaucho when it was sold to the French. Bees weren’t actually killed by this chemical, they were just disoriented by it, so they had problems reaching their hive. They eventually died because of the cold. This disorder was called by French beekeepers as mad bee disease. This was also sold in the US and it’s one of the main suspects.
Scientists are also looking at other possible causes, by trying to get samples of different bee colonies, doing genetic analysis and autopsies on bees.
Researchers don’t have an answer to this problem yet, but they’re looking hard and hopefully they will find the answer to the bee shortage soon.