Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bees Responsible for 35 Percent of Human Calories

Bee Epidemic Threatens Chunk of Menu as Science Debates Cause
By Robert Hilferty

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Honey isn’t the only thing we’d miss if bees completely disappeared.

“Bees are a profound part of the ecosystem, much more than we ever thought,” said Rowan Jacobsen, whose chilling new book, “The Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis” (Bloomsbury), gives us a taste of a world without honey, not to mention other goodies bees make possible. The tall, lanky 40-year-old author talked with me at a new East Village restaurant fittingly called Apiary while promoting his book in New York.

“Fruitless Fall” details the recent rise of Colony Collapse Disorder. Bees, around for the past 100 million years, have been mysteriously dying in droves -- about 30 billion worldwide last year alone.

“Bees are responsible for 35 percent of our calories, but it’s not just any 35 percent,” Jacobsen said. “It’s the 35 percent with the most antioxidants and vitamins -- all the fruits and vegetables. All these super foods that lower cholesterol and blood pressure go way down without bees.” We perused Apiary’s menu to see what might not be there in the worst-case scenario.

“Squash soup,” he intoned as if pronouncing a death sentence. “You’re going to have to cross that off for sure. It’s one of the crops completely pollinated by bees, along with other members of that family, pumpkins and cucumbers.”

My hopes for greens were also dashed. “Lettuce will grow on its own without honeybees but it won’t set seed unless it’s pollinated.” Orange was a featured ingredient in another appetizer. “It will self-pollinate when needed -- if you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with. But their yields are much higher with bees.”…

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