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Bring Back the Honeybees

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Colorado beekeepers have a problem.

Some of Colorado’s largest commercial beekeepers are being hit hard by a mysterious honeybee die-off that’s sweeping the nation. Twenty-four states have been beset by an alarming and unexplained disappearance of honeybees known as “colony collapse disorder.” The losses imperil beekeepers’ livelihoods, the $14.6 billion U.S. pollination industry, and domestic honey production, according to agriculture experts.

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This story has been all over the news this weekend. At first, I thought it must be a slow news period. After all, the other top story seemed to be Ann Coulter mouthing off at the conservative convention in Washington. But, I happened to catch NBC Nightly News tonight, and their story went far beyond the beekeepers’ problem. It’s soon to be our problem in the form of higher grocery prices for many if not most of our fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, particularly almonds. According to NBC, one-third of the food Americans buy depends upon bees for pollination. As MSNBC reported last month,

A recent report by the National Research Council noted that in order to bear fruit, three-quarters of all flowering plants –including most food crops and some that provide fiber, drugs and fuel — rely on pollinators for fertilization.

Some of the beekeepers are now importing bees from places as far away as Australia. The scientists can’t figure out why our domestic bees are disappearing. This will translate into higher prices at the grocery store. So the next time you see a bee story, remember it’s not just a human story about the beekeepers’ business falling off. It could have a dramatic impact on the cost of the healthy foods you buy and eat. And if not corrected, it could jeapordize the availability of these foods. As the New York Times reported yesterday, according to Penn. State Researcher Mary Ann Frazier:

Pollination by bees is crucial for crops like apples, cucumbers, cranberries and almonds….”The best-case scenario is that consumers will be paying more for fruit at the grocery store because growers are paying more for bees,” Ms. Frazier said. “The worst case is that some foods won’t be available because there aren’t enough bees to get the job done.”

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