Most of us associate bees with painful memories of getting stung. On the periphery, we know that they play a role in pollinating some of the crops we eat, but we seldom think much more of them. As long as honey is stocked on supermarket shelves, all is well. The reality is that bees are dying off in droves, and without action, many of the foods that color our dinner plates will follow in suit. In fact, bees are so crucial to crop pollination that nearly 1 in 3 bites of food you eat today is due to a bee’s handiwork.
In 2006, beekeepers began noticing a disturbing trend. Honeybees were vanishing seemingly overnight. The hives they tended would be stocked with honey, yet devoid of life. Not long after, researchers coined the acronym CCD – colony collapse disorder. To this day, CCD is somewhat of a mystery. Scientist across the globe have named a variety of culprits responsible for these mass bee deaths, but the research data are still inconclusive as to which is playing the lead role. To put things in perspective, one-third of U.S. honeybees died during the 2012-2013 winter. The die-off is so great that beekeepers are often being driven out of business. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory is trying to unearth the cause. Jeff Pettis, leader of the institute, is fearful that we may be too late to impact a real change if no action is taken soon.