Oh, Honey

Honeybees, those blossom seekers whose telltale yellow and black stripes are a favorite costume at Halloween, are in sharp decline in the United States. Not only is this a problem for flowers, but also for producers of nuts and fruits, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

At stake is the work the honeybees do, pollinating more than $15 billion worth of U.S. crops, including Pennsylvania's apple harvest, the fourth-largest in the nation, worth $45 million, and New Jersey's cranberries and blueberries.

Beekeepers transport managed hives across the country to places that need the pollinators. But if their bees keep dying, the plants that usually benefit won’t be fertilized.

Experts attribute the demise to a number of problems like mites and a fungal pathogen, but pesticides and monoculture farms may also be part of the problem. As a result, we could see fewer crops this year that rely on these European insects. So if you see a honeybee this spring, wish it luck if you want that blueberry pie this summer.

-Susan Cosier 


Isn't there any other way for the crops to survive without these lil honeybee's help?

Honeybees are an imported European substitution for native bees like the bumblebee and dozens of others. Their demise may spell trouble for farmers in the near term but also may create more incentive for farmers to support native pollinators by conserving native vegetation and planting the native plants that give our local bees food and shelter. Check out the work of Claire Kremen and others on local pollinators.