A quarter of the honeybee colonies in America are dead, and scientists are searching for the reason why.
“They’re basically not coming home and we do not know what is causing it,” said Zachary Huang, associate professor of entomology at Michigan State University.
Honeybees are responsible for pollinating more than 90 species of fruits and vegetables, and their pollination is worth about $14.6 billion a year, a Congressional Research Service report said.
About 600,000 of the 2.4 million American bee colonies have been affected by what scientists are calling Colony Collapse Disorder, first noticed last fall.
“We have not seen CCD here (in the immediate area),” said Terry Klein, St. Charles beekeeper and vice president of the Michigan Beekeepers Association.
Michigan has between 3 and 5 percent of the nation’s bee colonies and is only one of 24 states to have reported cases of CCD, according to the March 26 congressional report.
Some of the causes scientists have suggested included electricity from cell phones, weather, food sources and parasites such as nosema and varroa.
Huang, who has been working with bees since 1982, said all those reasons already have been discounted and the damage might have happened earlier than August 2006.
“There is no association pattern linked to cell phone towers,” Huang said.
Bees whose deaths were consistent with CCD have been found in areas with no cell phone reception.
Robert Schust, Saginaw Valley Beekeepers president, said he heard about cell phones and microwaves causing the bee deaths and they doubted they had anything to do with CCD.
What it could mean
Huang said Albert Einstein allegedly said if honeybees become extinct, humans would be four years behind.
But the Einstein who said that was a beekeeper, not the famous physicist. And this Einstein was wrong, Huang said.
“We can survive – we will have enough food because bees only pollinate about a third of the food (we eat),” he said.
The other two-thirds are crops such as wheat, corn and other staples.
“The good stuff would be gone – the apples and cherries and other fruits,” Huang said.