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VOL 2005
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The World’s Honeybees Are Dying


By James Donahue

April, 2005


It may seem insignificant to the millions of folks living in urban areas where they rarely see a bee unless they grow flowers. But honeybees around the world are dying and the impact could mean a major reduction in the world food supply.


The culprit is a tiny critter called the Varroa blood sucking bee mite that attacks the bees before they hatch.


This mite first threatened honeybees in the U.S. about 10 years ago when it first arrived on the continent. But beekeepers found a miticide poison that protected their hives and the first assault was staved off. But bee specialists say the miticide is no longer working. A new and more virile variety of the Varroa mite has emerged that is resistant to the poison.


Anything stronger will kill the bees.


This new breed of mite is attacking bees all over the world and beekeepers are racing to find a solution to this new dilemma.


“By late spring, we could see an awful lot of bees die,” warned Laurence Cutts, a bee inspector with the Florida Division of Plant Industry. “We’re in considerable trouble.”


US beekeeper Jane Beckman said: “This bee die-off is nearly unprecedented. I've been on the bee biology list a long time, and there's been no record of a bee die-off of this magnitude.”


In the UK, beekeeper Peter Dalby said Varroa is already responsible for some keepers losing up to 90 percent of hive populations.


Dalby, who serves as chairman of the British Beekeepers Association’s technical committee, said the mite is tightening its grip on the British honey bee industry by wiping out hive populations across the country.


The loss of the bees will first be noticed in the honey industry, where prices will skyrocket as supplies dwindle.


By Dalby said there will long range effects that will be extremely damaging to the environment.


“Honey bees will decline, birds which eat seeds will starve and the whole face of the countryside will change,” he said.


While there are many other types of bees, wasps and even birds that carry pollen from flower to flower, none of them do this job as effectively in fruit orchards, vegetable farms and clover fields as the honeybee.


While most grasses are wind pollinated, many plants and fruit trees need insects, and mainly bees, to transfer the male pollen to female ovaries. The loss of the honey bees can have a direct effect on squash, melons, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli, turnip, kale, radish, mustard, brussels sprouts, tomatos, peppers, potatos, eggplants and nearly all of the fruits produced on the ground and in trees.


One specialist, David Yarrow, recently suggested that the mite, like HIV and AIDS, are an “opportunistic infection” and are a symptom rather than a cause of the bee kill.


A symptom of what you may ask? Of an overpopulated, polluted, heating and dying planet.