I've read a couple books on bees (and earthworms, and composting, and companion gardening, and and and...) over the last few years, and before CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) had begun to rear it's ugly head in the last year or so, you heard horror stories about how varroa mites or acarine mites could really devastate a hive, or a virus (vectored by moth larvae) could rot out the still developing young. Death's caused by the mites were enough to wipe out a large chunk of the honeybee population, but it seems apiarists had adapted after that crisis and continued to move on - it was just a matter of fact, and something that could be identified and perhaps controlled.
But over the last two years, you've probably heard news reports, read articles, etc about how there's a new problem with honeybees. Bee colonies are flat out disappearing - oftentimes at a surprisingly fast pace. With other bee diseases/pests, there would usually be signs of the cause - dead bees near the entry to the hive, rotting larvae corpses in the hive, etc. But now there were no obvious clues - the bees were just missing. It's as if they forgot how to find their way home. Why is it important to us that the bees are disappearing? Here's a quote from the Nature web site:
"In the winter of 2006/2007, more than a quarter of the country's 2.4 million bee colonies -- accounting for tens of billions of bees -- were lost to CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder. This loss is projected have an $8 billion to $12 billion effect on America's agricultural economy, but the consequences of CCD could be far more disastrous.
The role honeybees play in our diet goes beyond honey production. These seemingly tireless creatures pollinate about one-third of crop species in the U.S. Honeybees pollinate about 100 flowering food crops including apples, nuts, broccoli, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, melons, as well as animal-feed crops, such as the clover that's fed to dairy cows. Essentially all flowering plants need bees to survive."
That'll give ya a bit of a scare, eh?
While I'm not saying there's much we, the common folk, can necessarily do about this, it's still an interesting topic to keep an eye on. As mentioned above, this crisis could really affect the food on your table, the colors you see around you, and so much more in the years to come.
Find out about a region in China where mankind has already killed off the local pollenating insect population, as well as the plants they'd normally interact with - and how man now has to replace the insects as pollinators.
If nothing else, maybe you'll think twice before using pesticides in your garden next spring... Could you be finding a more environmentally-friendly alternative? Check your local listings and give this special a watch...I bet you'll find it interesting...if not scary.