Mysterious Colony Collapse
Last year headlines from the New York Time to the Washington Post screamed of mysterious losses of honey bee colonies. The number of beekeepers and managed colonies has been steadily declining since the 1940s. Managed colonies dwindled from a peak of over 5 million hives to around 2.4 million. But from 2006-2007 the United States lost an estimated 600-800,000 hives, about one third of the total, to Colony Collapse Disorder, the name given to the sudden dwindling of honey bee colonies.
Honey bees provide pollination to a wide array of crops, from almonds to zucchinis. Approximately 80% of all managed farm crops require pollination. Huge losses are devastating to our food supply. Without honey bees, will we become dependant on imported food?
The cause of the mysterious losses has yet to be determined. Many scientists believe a cohort of interwoven stress factors reduced the health of colonies, leaving them susceptible to disease and parasites.
Seemingly insignificant, the honey bee contributes an estimated $14 billion worth of agricultural products through its pollination efforts, delivering improved crop quality and quantity.
You can help support beekeepers in their time of need by purchasing local honey instead of imported brands. Much of the honey lining supermarkets shelves stems from China and other countries, but is packaged in the United States. Read the label for the country of origin. Be sure that under ingredients it lists only "honey", otherwise you are purchasing a blend watered down with other ingredients such as corn syrup. Some labels will proudly state "Honey Blend," inferring a superior product, when in fact you are purchasing honey mixed with a secondary cheap sweetener.