Beekeepers in several states across the country are reporting that their beehives are suddenly going empty. When they look inside, all but a very few of the bees are just gone – no dead bee bodies lying about, no nothing. They are simply gone. While it is always possible that all these mysterious disappearances are a result of coordinated gangs of bear burglars raiding the hives or a mass vacation on the part of the bees, it is unlikely. (Although it does off the hysterical mental image of bees in bikinis flocking to the beaches of the Gulf Coast for spring break.) So what is causing the beepocalypse? Nobody knows at this point. But the call is going out for Federal intervention.
Bee numbers on parts of the east coast and in Texas have fallen by more than 70 percent, while California has seen colonies drop by 30 to 60 percent.
According to estimates from the US, bees are vanishing across a total of 22 states, and for the time being no one really knows why.
"Approximately 40 percent of my 2,000 colonies are currently dead and this is the greatest winter colony mortality I have ever experienced in my 30 years of beekeeping," apiarist Gene Brandi, from the California State Beekeepers Association, told Congress recently.
It is normal for hives to see populations fall by some 20 percent during the winter, but the sharp loss of bees is causing concern, especially as domestic US bee colonies have been steadily decreasing since 1980.
There are some 2.4 million professional hives in the country, according to the Agriculture Department, 25 percent fewer than at the start of the 1980s.
And the number of beekeepers has halved.
The situation is so bad, that beekeepers are now calling for some kind of government intervention, warning the flight of the bees could be catastrophic for crop growers.
Domestic bees are essential for pollinating some 90 varieties of vegetables and fruits, such as apples, avocados, and blueberries and cherries.
Just a minor point here: why can't the growers who require bees to pollinate their crops fund an investigation? I fully agree that there is a real problem, I just don't see the growers getting involved at this point – maybe they are and the reports just aren't saying so, but unless and until they do, why should the Federal government shoulder this?