Hot on the heels of our recent post about Colony Collapse Disorder and the frightening future for bees comes new bee news from The Grinder* and Slate. It turns out, at least according to Slate’s Heather Smith, that what we commonly think of as the honeybee virtually disappeared over a decade ago. In 1987, a Wisconsin colony was infected by a truly disgusting parasite, triggering an outbreak of disease that spread like wildfire among bees nationwide. By 1994, Smith reports, 98% of the United States’ wild honeybee population became extinct and commercial colonies were also fairly well decimated.
What does this mean? Well, according to Smith, rather than receiving visits from honeybees, United States crops have spent the past ten plus years being pollinated by “a rogue’s gallery of look-alikes.” Commercial beekeepers have responded to the crisis with fairly unsavory methods such as forced reproduction and pumping the bees with high fructose corn syrup. Despite all that, the honeybees are still suffering from issues like Colony Collapse Disorder.
So what now? Smith reports that scientists have been cultivating a new kind of bee for pollination: the blue-orchard bee. This season, California almond growers used the new bee for some crops and reported a record harvest. Hooray, science!
*: Fun fact: Christy Harrison, the author of the Grinder piece, and ourself have lived in the same room at different times. It’s a small world, even/especially for food writers.
The Real Problem With Bees [The Grinder]
Why The Disappearance of the Honeybees Isn’t The End of the World [Slate]