Honey bees around the United States are facing a gradual, and in some places catastrophic, decline in their populations. Over the past decade, honey bee populations have steadily declined, a change many believed to be the result in changing agricultural practices or changes in weather patterns. However, in 2007, bee colonies experienced a stunningly rapid decline, with between 30-70% of hives dying off in some areas. This phenomenon, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, whose causes are currently unknown, has wreaked havoc on American beekeepers.
While CCD has hurt commercial beekeepers, the long-term ramifications of a declining honey bee population stretch beyond beekeeping. As pollinators, honey bees play an important role in the reproduction cycle and plants and crops throughout the United States. Honey bees play a role in pollinating several major crops in the U.S., including soybeans, alfalfa, and cotton, to name a few. Worldwide, it is estimated that roughly 1/3 of the human food supply depends on insect pollination (much of which is done by honey bees).
Some states are taking direct action to support the bee population. Virginia, for example, which estimated that honey bees increase the market value of Virginia crops by $110 million, has started education programs to encourage the training of beekeepers. Meanwhile, researchers are investigating the causes of CCD.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer