UPDATE – We’re in the middle of a bee emergency. Albert Einstein said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years left to live.” A mysterious ailment called Colony Collapse Disorder is causing agricultural honeybees nationwide to abandon their hives and disappear. It’s a kind of mass suicide in the bee world. We have an UPDATE on this story from a reader.

UPDATE: A reader from South Texas writes: “Recently you have been reporting the loss of honey bees….And I just wanted to comment on something I’ve noticed recently. We live in a small rural community south of San Antonio. There are bee hives on the property next to ours that are man-made and there is a natural hive in a tree behind our property.We have an uncovered, above ground pool, and a couple of weeks ago I began to notice bees floating dead on the surface. The numbers grew till there were literally hundreds each day and this went on for weeks. I’ve never seen anything like it. The numbers finally slowed and now there are only about a dozen a day. “I can’t help but wonder about this phenomenon….Why were so many drowned? The pool has been here for years….Paper wasps and bees drink from it year round….and there were no wasps in the mix. It seems strange and I wondered if anyone else reported the same thing happening in their area.”

Entomologist Jerry Bromenshenk says, “Individual beekeepers are really taking a beating. A guy down in Oklahoma lost 80% of his 13,000 colonies in the last month. In Florida, there are a whole lot of people facing 40, 60 and 80 percent losses. That?s huge.”

With CCD, most adult honeybees abandon a hive and disappear, abandoning the queen and a remnant of younger bees. This is unheard of, since normally a bee colony will do almost anything to protect its queen. Since the tasks done in the hive are very stratified, bees cannot survive on their own.

One of the strongest instincts that bees have is protecting and nurturing the next generation, but with CCD, the cells of young bees in the pupa stage are not covered and protected by their older sisters, probably because most of the adult bees have left. Dead adult bees aren’t even found near the hive; they are just gone.

Bromenshenk says, “We don?t want to panic the beekeeper industry because we are not sure it’s time to push the panic button yet, but we do know this is real, it’s severe and it’s widespread.”

Field technician and self-professed bee lover Scott Debnam describes visits to the impacted bee yards as “spooky,” and says, “Fortunately the sites I’ve visited have been recovering, but in Georgia I saw a lot of small colonies, a lot of uncapped brood and a lot of early-stage brood. The adults had flown the coop.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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