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Thursday, June 05, 2008

What happened to the Bees?

One year ago, the world was transfixed by the unexplained collapse of honeybee colonies in North America and Europe. Doom was predicted for entire sectors of global agriculture. And then we forgot about it.

Perhaps "forgot" is a bit harsh; the public's attention simply shifted, as is natural, and grocery store shelves are still stocked. But that doesn't mean Colony Collapse Disorder has gone away. On the contrary, as a recent spate of one-year-later news stories show, bee colonies suffered an unusually high winter die-off; beekeepers are scrambling to sustain colonies; and nobody's yet figured out what's killing the bees, but the causes may be many and intertwined: viruses, pesticides, stress, fungus, parasites.

Exacerbating the problem is the nature of modern beekeeping. If any lesson stuck in our collective consciousness after last summer's concerns, it's of the reliance of U.S. agriculture on commercial beekeepers and the reality of beekeeping as an industry that's no more natural than a high-density feedlot.

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