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Organic Consumers Association

Bees are Busier Than Ever as Disease Besieges Colonies

In normal times, David Hackenberg would begin trucking his 20 million honeybees from the almond orchards of California to the orange groves of Florida this week.

Instead, after a month working the almond blossoms on the West Coast, his exhausted pollinators will get some rest and relaxation in the Georgia woods before the East Coast apple blossoms summon them to work once more next month.

These are not normal times for bees, or for commercial beekeepers, so Hackenberg's pollinators will skip the citrus gig to reduce their exposure to pesticides and get some rest. "Everybody is seeing [bee] losses this winter," said Hackenberg, of Lewisburg, Pa. "This was probably the worst year ever."

More than three years after beekeepers starting seeing the sudden disappearance of hive populations, scientists have yet to find the cause -- let alone the fix -- for a condition called colony collapse disorder (CCD). Meanwhile, the commercial beekeeping industry is struggling to provide pollination services to the nations' farmers. One-third of food crops rely on insect pollination.

A recently published survey suggests that hive losses have stabilized at around 30 percent a year, but that high figure is based on last winter's data. Anecdotally, the losses have climbed this winter, although a formal tally won't occur until the spring. 


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