Where are all the bees going?

An unrecognized agricultural worker is disappearing from the United States.

As honeybee populations continue to suffer from rapid, inexplicable decline, agricultural experts are beginning to fret. Besides the obvious impact this blight will have on the world’s honey market, bees are helpful, if not necessary, for the production of domestic crops.

Noticeable problems began last October when beekeepers across the United States began reporting declines in their bee populations. Although often susceptible to disease, these newly affected bee colonies were marked by a complete absence of bees; not even dead bees could be found near the vacant hives. The mysterious affliction has been dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. Now Europe is falling victim, with countries like Switzerland reporting that up to 40 percent of its colonies have disappeared.

The loss of bee populations has far more serious implications for the state of agriculture. A recent report to the U.S. Congress revealed that approximately one-third of the U.S. diet comes from crops that depend on pollination from bees. The report also estimated that bees and their pollination services annually provide $15 billion in value to crops.

While no cause has been found for CCD, some scientists are proposing that the decline is linked to cell phones and other modern technology. The radiation released from cell phones and other electronic devices could be confusing or repelling bees. A study found that bees will not return to their hives if cell phones are placed nearby. The issue deserves more study, but it is worth noting that bee populations have decreased 40 percent in the last 20 years; a period of time that coincides with the rise of mobile technology in the United States.

This is not an issue that can be ignored. As human populations rise, we need to ensure that the production of crops is not impeded. Considering that 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants require pollination to reproduce, the bee is a significant player in world agricultural affairs. It might be time to start a campaign to save the bees and, by doing so, save our food supply.