March 29, 2010

Experts Struggling To Explain Declining Bee Population

The American bee population continues to decline, leaving experts wondering why.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, the number of beehives decreased for the third consecutive year in 2009. The beehive numbers fell by 29-percent last year, following declines of 36-percent in 2008 and 32-percent in 2007. Scientists in other countries have noticed similar results and have taken to calling the results "colony collapse disorder."

David Mendes, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, told Jean-Louis Santini of AFP that "preliminary estimates already indicate losses of 30 to 50 percent" in the Winter of 2010, which will further reduce honey production and cause problems for farmers that rely on bees to pollinate their crops. Billions of dollars of crops could be effected.

According to Santini, "Researchers have looked at viruses, parasites, insecticides, malnutrition and other environmental factors but have been unable to pinpoint a specific cause for the population decline."

Jeff Pettis, the lead researcher of the Department of Agriculture's Beltsville, Maryland Bee Research Laboratory, stated that pesticide use could be a "contributing factor," while adding that the best thing to help the sagging insect population is to "limit habitat destruction."

"The world population growth is in a sense the reason for pollinators' decline," he told Santini. "Because we need to produce more and more food to feed the world and we grow crops in larger fields. A growing world means growing more food and to do that we need pollinators. And the fact that the world is continuing to grow is the driving force behind the habitat destruction."


On the Net: