Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New Book Examines Colony Collapse Disorder

What’s Killing the Honeybees?
By Paul Comstock, California Literary Review, 11/4/2008

CLR INTERVIEW: Rowan Jacobsen is an environmental writer living in Vermont. His most recent book is Fruitless Fall, an investigation into the collapse of honeybee colonies throughout the world. Below is Rowan’s interview with the California Literary Review...

What is CCD? When did it start, and what is the current status of honeybee colonies throughout the world?

Colony Collapse Disorder first showed up in the fall of 2006, though there were a few signs of it in 2005. Honeybee populations, which had been slowly declining for decades, suddenly fell off a cliff. 31 percent of America’s honeybees died that winter, and another 36 percent died last winter. The situation is similar in most other developed countries. No one knows what is causing CCD, though there are a few leading suspects.

What would happen to us if honeybees were to completely die off?

More than 100 crops, about a third of the calories we eat, require cross-pollination by honeybees. The grain staples such as corn, rice, and oats are wind-pollinated, but most of the stuff that adds color to our plates and vitamins and antioxidants to our diets—apples, pears, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, plums, melons, cucumbers, zucchini, almonds, macadamia nuts, and so on—would disappear. Plants like lettuce, carrots, broccoli, and onions, which don’t make edible fruits but need to make seeds for next year’s supply, also rely on bees. Bees also cross-pollinate the forage crops, like alfalfa and clover, that are vital to many dairying and beef cattle operations. And don’t forget honey, of course…

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