September 10, 2013
Apiary Experts Still Have No Cure For Mass Honeybee Die-Offs
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Richard Fell, an emeritus professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, said that scientists not only have not been able to find a cure, they still are not even sure what is causing the mass deaths in the honeybee population.
"Some estimates put the value of honeybees in pollinating fruit, vegetable and other crops at almost $15 billion annually," Fell said. "Without bees to spread pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts, fruit may not form. That would severely impact consumers, affecting the price of some of the healthiest and most desirable foods."
He said the biggest impacts from decreased hive numbers will be felt by farmers producing crops with high pollination requirements, like almonds.
"Consumers may see a lowered availability of certain fruits and vegetables and some higher costs," explained Fell.
Something is continuing to kill about one in every three honeybees each year, but Fell said there is some misinformation about colony collapse disorder (CCD), especially in regards to pesticides.
"I think it is important to emphasize that we do not understand the causes of colony decline and CCD and that there are probably a number of factors involved. Also, the factors that trigger a decline may be different in different areas of the country and at different times of year," Richard said.
Some leading theories about the cause of CCD includes the use of certain pesticides, parasites, diseases and overall hive nutrition. Beekeepers are pushing to stop the sale of certain neonicotinoids, which have been seen as a main culprit of CCD. However, Fell said that we shouldn't be so quick to blame this insecticide. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there is no scientific evidence that the neonicotinoids are causing serious problems with bee colonies.
Fell said that if bee colonies continue to decline, there will be an increase in the use of other species, including the bumble bee and alfalfa leaf cutter bee.
"The major advantages of using honeybees are ease of movement, both in and out of orchards or fields, as well as the ability to manage colonies for higher populations. Honeybee colonies can be moved from one crop to another in a single season, something that cannot be done easily with bumble bees or solitary bee species such as the alfalfa leafcutter bee," explained Fell. "If we can gain a better understanding of the factors causing honeybee decline, we may be able to apply this knowledge to protecting other species."