Has anyone else been following these stories about hives of honey bees mysteriously dying off?
Here's an educated, unsensationalistic look on the issue from The Straight Dope:
Dear Straight Dope:
What in blazes is going on with the world's bees? I keep reading all these stories about how a significant percentage of the world's beehives are failing and that all the bees are dying. No one seems to know why, but there are explanations aplenty, ranging from global warming to mites to, of all things, cell phones! What's worse, some of these stories quote Albert Einstein's predictions that if the world's bees were ever to die off, owing to the lack of pollinators, humanity would follow about four years later. Is there anything we can do about this? If the bees all die, are there any substitute pollinators we can use? Or is Einstein right and we're all doomed? —Rich Swank, Orlando,
FLSDSTAFF Doug replies:
Not to brag, but thanks to Wikipedia I've become the #1 authority on disappearing bees. Type "colony collapse disorder" into Google and hit return – the top hit is the Wikipedia page I maintain on the subject. (In real life I'm an entomologist with the University of California at Riverside.) Here's a summary.
First and most important: There are some 20,000 species of bees in the world, and many thousands more types of pollinating insects. What you're hearing about, "colony collapse disorder," affects one species of bee – the European honey bee. That species happens to be the one global agriculture relies upon for about 30% of its pollination requirements. So while we're not talking about losing all the world's pollinators, we are talking about losing a significant fraction of them. That's the worst-case scenario, with the species wiped out completely.