U.S. Bees Succumbing to Mystery Disease

beeHoneybee populations in the United States are being decimated by a mysterious new disease, the Associated Press reported last week.

bee
A mysterious disease is killing off bees in the United States.

Honeybee populations in the United States are being decimated by a mysterious new disease, the Associated Press reported last week. The previously unknown ailment, termed “colony collapse disorder,” is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, costing some beekeepers as much as 50 percent of their bees.

Dave Hackenberg of Hackenberg Apiaries in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, first reported the disease to researchers at Penn State University last November. At that point he had lost nearly 2,000 colonies, and reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 21 other states. A colony can have some 20,000 bees in the winter and as many as 60,000 in the summer. The president of the American Beekeeping Foundation, Daniel Weaver, has called the disease a “serious” matter, according to the AP.

Worldwatch Institute agriculture expert Danielle Nierenberg notes that the disease’s attack on already declining U.S. bee populations could have serious effects on pollination. According to researchers, bees provide crop-pollinating services valued at some $92 billion, and their diversity is also linked to that of many wild plant species. Nierenberg says this latest blight points to the importance of ongoing research on emerging animal diseases. Her upcoming work will focus on the link between disease and the increased industrialization of food and livestock production.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.

FEBRUARY 19, 2007