Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 7:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 7:56 a.m.
( page 2 of 4 )
MERCED, Calif. — The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing
honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee
die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives
laden with pesticides.
Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are
scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat,
ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal
courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a
pesticide on the market.
And on Thursday, chemists at a scientific conference in San Francisco
will tackle the issue of chemicals and dwindling bees in response to the
Scientists are concerned because of the vital role bees play in our food
supply. About one-third of the human diet is from plants that require
pollination from honeybees, which means everything from apples to
Bees have been declining over decades from various causes. But in 2006 a
new concern, "colony collapse disorder," was blamed for large,
inexplicable die-offs. The disorder, which causes adult bees to abandon
their hives and fly off to die, is likely a combination of many causes,
including parasites, viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and pesticides,
"It's just gotten so much worse in the past four years," said Jeff
Pettis, research leader of the Department of Agriculture' s Bee Research
Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. "We're just not keeping bees alive that
This year bees seem to be in bigger trouble than normal after a bad
winter, according to an informal survey of commercial bee brokers cited
in an internal USDA document. One-third of those surveyed had trouble
finding enough hives to pollinate California's blossoming nut trees,
which grow the bulk of the world's almonds. A more formal survey will be
done in April.
"There were a lot of beekeepers scrambling to fill their orders and that
implies that mortality was high," said Penn State University bee
researcher Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who worked on the USDA snapshot survey.
Beekeeper Zac Browning shipped his hives from Idaho to California to
pollinate the blossoming almond groves. He got a shock when he checked
on them, finding hundreds of the hives empty, abandoned by the worker