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Ed Yeates ReportingIs the honeybee about to become an endangered species? Researchers don't think so, at least not yet! But beekeepers and farmers are watching the population decline dramatically.
At the U.S. Department of Agriculture Lab in Logan, researchers are on a fast track, looking for ways to fill the void created by the decline of honeybees. Two years ago teams there were hoping a fungus, harmless to honeybees, would kill mites that in turn were killing the bees, but the fungus failed to do the job.
This weekend in Germany, an international group of researchers and producers of beehive products passed a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to investigate all possible causes of what's now called CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder.
Dr. Rosalind James, an entomologist with the USDA Research Lab, said, "This latest thing with the CCD is really pretty new, so there aren't a lot of answers yet of what's really causing it."
Are the bees dying from mites, from stress, from malnutrition, pesticides, or pollen collected by the bees from genetically modified crops? The lab in Logan is one of only four in the country operated by the USDA where researchers are trying to find alternative pollinators.
The Blue Orchard bee doesn't make honey, but it is a very good pollinator. It's friendlier, doesn't sting, and has only one life cycle. For example, that means for farmers, like those who grow almonds, blue orchard bees in cocoons can be kept cool and stored easily. By 2012, there could be an estimated 800,000 acres of almonds growing in California.
"The concern is there is not going to be enough honeybee colonies for that many acres of almonds," Glen Trostle, a biological technician at the USDA lab, said.
No bees, no almonds. No honeybees, no honey. The challenge is to find alternative pollinators and save honeybees at the same time.
Colony Collapse Disorder at first was limited to honeybee hives in North America, but beekeepers in several European countries are now reporting a similar die-off.