Gang of factors causing bee die-off

A bee collects pollen from the stamens of a flowering crocus.


Steve Chiotakis: Honeybee keepers in this country are reporting a crisis, and it seems to be getting worse. Some beekeepers are reporting extreme losses this year. And a new study out today suggests pesticides may play a bigger role than previously thought. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports.

Sarah Gardner: For several years now, a massive honeybee die-off has puzzled U.S. experts. They still don't know exactly what's causing it. Scientists meeting today in San Francisco will hear results of a new Penn State study showing "unprecedented levels" of pesticides in pollen and hives across the U.S.

Bee expert Eric Mussen at the University of California-Davis says certain combinations of pesticides may be helping to kill off bees already weakened by disease.

Eric Mussen: Right now, we're more or less saying it's sort of like the movie "The Perfect Storm," where a number of stresses are all sort of ganging up at once and finally the bees are just giving in.

Honeybees pollinate about a third of all the food we eat. That's roughly $15 billion worth of U.S. fruits and vegetables. An informal survey by the USDA found one-third of commercial bee brokers had a hard time finding enough beehives to pollinate California's almond trees, the largest almond crop in the world.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.
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That is exactly right. You cannot move them around on trucks, the hive has to stay in one place. And you cannot use nicotine to smoke them out to get the honey we already know that kills people, even second hand smoke, they are too small to take. And they have to have clean pure water, not polluted streams and gutters. And they have to have a mixed diet of many different sources, they are starving to death. Sick and dieing creatures cannot find their way home. Portable hives should be against the law, and hives for pollination should be allowed to have their honey removed. Try and you will finf out. Leave the hive alone, never touch it, keep fresh water next to it and wild flowers all around it, you will grow millions of bees again.

In your lead, it's "elude" not "allude" - please get a proofreader.

Ms. Gardner downplayed the definitive research linking pewsticides to bee die-offs; snall-scale organic/ecological farmers have no shortage of poollinators, including honey bees. She also missed an important piece of this puzzle, which she treated as an aside. Why don't the almond farmers have bees? Because their industrial, monocultured farming practices kill everything. The idea of transporting 74,000 hives across the country should also raise serious questions as to the weakening of the bees. Your story indicated the bees were weak to begin with and as a result succumed to the pesticides. Both the pesticides and these horrendous practices of industrializing the management of bees, compliments of the USDA, are equally implicated. You need to read the last few sentences of the book A World Without Bees by Allison Benjamin and Brian McCallum: "Nothing less than a transformation in our treatment of hoeybees will avert disaster. We are the ones killing the honeybee through ignorance, unsustainable agricultural practices and dangerous use of chemicals." Alyce Ortuzar

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