Colony Collapse Disorder threatens bee population and U.S. agriculture

- Some have called it “Colony Collapse Disorder.”

Any way you cut it, if bees die off, it means a threat to our most prolific pollinators and a threat to our food.

Fox 29 met with master beekeeper Vince Aloyo, who runs Delaware Valley University’s Apiary program to learn more.

“The bees have rules,” Vince said. The spacing between the combs has to be exactly according to their rules. If you violate the rules, they will change things. And you won’t like it.”

Vince and a student of his, Kyle Maio, had Hank out to see some of the Aviary’s hives up close.

They’re in good shape, but other hives aren’t doing as well. Some local beekeepers report 40 percent losses over the winter. A study out last week from the Center for Biological Diversity said more than 700 bee species are in decline, with more than 300 facing extinction.

“It’s going to be a lot of work to keep those colonies alive—those species alive,” said Maio.

The study lists a number of key factors for the decline: climate change, urbanization. It also lists pesticide use, something Vince said wasn’t in play when he was growing up.

“We didn’t have any money to spray pesticides all over the place. Nobody sprayed their lawns with herbicides. The clover and the dandelions and the weeds [are] all food for bees. Not only honeybees, but bumblebees, orchard bees, and butterflies,” Vince said. “You know that they’re all having troubles.”

Another reason? The parasitic Varroa mite, which came in from China in the 80’s.

“They’re on everything,” Vince said. “There’s no way to avoid them right now.”

Beekeepers like Vince and Kyle agree on one thing: bee populations are stressed out right now. The question is how to stop the downward spiral, particularly when humans depend on bees as much as they do.

“Think about trying to manually pollinate a whole crop, a whole orchard of apples, or almond groves, or avocados,” Maio said. “It's impossible.”

Complex problems usually require complex solutions, but in the case of saving bees, humans need to care first.

One beekeeper put it to Hank this way: “If you like eating food and sustaining yourself, you need to have bees.”

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