A mysterious condition has wiped out 40 to 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables over the last year, commercial beekeepers told Michael Wines of The New York Times.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) first surfaced in 2005 — when annual honeybee losses jumped from 5 to 10 percent to 30 percent — and is now decimating populations at an unprecedented rate.
“They looked so healthy last spring,” Bill Dahle, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont., told the Times. "Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”
Since their introduction in the 1990s, neonicotinoids are used to treated 94 percent of all corn seeds in the U.S. The problem is that the pesticide permeates corn plants and manifests in the pollen, nectar, and water bees rely on as a key protein source.
The Pesticide Action Network of North America, noting that bees often bring contaminated pollen back to the hive, claims that CCD symptoms first arose around the same time that seed treatment with neonicotinoids increased five-fold.
“Honeybees are caught in the crossfire,” said Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co., told NBC Nightly News. “Honey bees, like mine, are subjected to increasingly toxic load of pesticides in corn fields.”
Wines notes that a quarter of the American diet — from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions to almonds — depends on pollination by honeybees, and fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices.
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- Michael Wines