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The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/23/2007 11:15 AM

Has the price of food seemed expensive lately? You can thank Ethanol for that, for now, but soon there may be another reason.

Bee's are dying off left and right, for reasons that are unclear. So why should we care? It turns out that bees are the general method for pollinating orchards. All orchards.

http://www.boiseweekly.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A220550

California's Central Valley, which runs in an 80-mile-wide band from Bakersfield to Chico, produces nearly 100 percent of the almonds consumed in the United States and approximately 80 percent of the almonds consumed worldwide. It's a $2.2 billion industry, and California's 580,000 acres of almond orchards rely entirely on honeybees to pollinate the blossoms. That one crop draws more than half the nation's bee colonies--some 1.2 million--during the February-to-March pollination season, and competition among beekeepers for contracts is stiff.

"Almonds are the biggest money game in the business," Sundberg says.

The high demand for bees, coupled with increased death-loss ratios of colonies due to parasitic mites, hive beetles, wax moths and now the mysterious CCD, has led to skyrocketing costs to rent pollinating bee colonies. In 2004, Sundberg rented boxes of bees to almond growers for about $53 per colony for the season. The last two years the price has been closer to $140 per colony.

But despite nearly tripling his rental fees in the last three years, Sundberg says for the first time in his career, he is more than $100,000 in the hole. Due to the heavy CCD losses he sustained last month, Sundberg says he spent about $120,000 importing bees from overseas just to maintain his contracts with growers. That's money he's never had to spend in years past, and it's hitting his bottom line.

"That will turn around when the growers start making payments to me for my pollination services, but I've never had to buy supplemental bees in that kind of volume," Sundberg says. "I've never had these kinds of death-loss ratios before."

Not all beekeepers are as straightforward about the growing CCD problem as Sundberg. Not wanting to miss out on lucrative almond pollinating contracts, some beekeepers are replacing their lost hives with imported bees or subleasing honeybee colonies from other beekeepers. And many are not reporting their collapsed colonies for fear of losing contracts.

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#1

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 12:19 AM

I also am greatly concerned about that problem, as people just do not realize the importance of Bees to our food economy...

I just had one hive and they all died during the winter, so I am not even having as garden this year..

I would LOVE for others to add to this thread with their insight into the problem.

DC

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#3
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 2:25 AM

I haveheard it said that microwave phone frequencies are responsible- when Telstra introduced 3G frequencies, the same day I noticed birds disoriented- in fact I ran into them with my car, as they didn,t fly away as they always did before in over 40 years of motoring- in an aside, 1000s of birds have died in a port- the reason given is lead poisoning from export lead powder, & several HB are also ill. Whatever the cause, I feel you will find that HB action leads to unforeseen consequences in this only HOME we have.

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#2

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 12:37 AM

I spoke to a lady here in Wisconsin about her bees just this last weekend, she said that her hives were doing great. She also said the bee keepers that are haveing the problems are useing the large comb base.She uses the small. She did admit having used the large base a couple years ago ,and the bees didn't do as well.

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#4

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 3:39 AM

This problem has massive implications for us all. I can't add much here , but there are a number of other recent threads covering the topic which may be a source of more knowledge ( I can't remember titles , but using search should work ) . The more coverage this probem gets the better . Pretty soon we are all going to be affected by this issue - a devastating change could occur in an instant.

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#5

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 4:28 AM

I have noticed that we, in the UK, are having similar problems with our Bee's, last year I saw hardly any in my garden. Very worrying!

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 6:27 AM

Hi docrobgar. There is to be a meeting of the UKs beekeepers in june to discuss this problem. I saw a scientic program on channel 4 about this, one of the researchers placed a mobile phone just above the opening of a hive and the bee's refused to go into the hive. Bee's also have many other things to bother about, mites, beetles, moths ans viruses. Spencer.

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#9
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 7:55 AM

Hi Scapolie,

Thanks for the information but Im not specificly into bee's, just interested a any human being should be. Unfortunately Im too busy trying to market an Invention I've made to make myself active on this front. I was hoping it would solve my problem as far as pension provision which I've had ever since our theiving chancellor ruined the pensions of millions of Brit's. However seems like no one is interested in new technology in the UK these days especialy electronics/ photonics. Let this be a warning to all hoping to make money from Patent applications. This has cost £60,000 to date and hasn't earned a cockle yet. Sorry bee's and sorry to budding technologists with dreams of the future.

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#7

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 7:22 AM

Our family has had a small (100 tree) apple orchard in Canada for over 70 years, and I have noticed a steady decline in the past 5 years of the number of honeybees pollinating the trees. However, the number of bumblebees has remained constant and we always have about 8 hummingbirds and several orioles doing the rounds. Can the flowers be pollinated without insects or birds? Obviously bees are the best means of pollination, however can the flowers be pollinated simply by wind currents?

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 7:41 AM

The blossoms can be pollinated by the wind currents - but it is likely to be a VERY spotty and unreliable means. We have to get the bees reestablished and shut down whatever is causing them problems.

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#10

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 8:22 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoGY1FjdiH8

I've been interested in reading more (while trying to learn to grow a garden) and find it very disconcerting.

I did see a report on the news that the problem is being addressed by the US Congress since 30% of the food supply depends on bees. Haven't heard anything else though...probably one of the "preventing mass panic" ploys while they try and see who they can blame.

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#11

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 8:44 AM

This happened a couple of years ago with Bee Mites that infested their tracheas and choked the bees (imagine the scale here). But the bees rebounded the next year.

I'm never one to suggest that we don't panic. I think panic is good and useful. But I'm more concerned about the impending collapse of the US economy than about another, probably transient, bee problem.

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#12

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 9:59 AM

I think the almond growers should have asked themselves "What would happen without any bees to pollinate my crop?" a long time ago, and then take some appropriate action like owning their own bee colonies. I won't speculate the causes of CCD as many others have, but a lot of the literature seems to point to stress on the colonies from being trucked all over the continent. I like my almonds like the next guy, but I think it's going to suck to be an almond farmer pretty soon.

We recently saw a similar problem around here with the blizzards - the ranchers couldn't get hay out to the livestock. I think it was real great that the government was able to get hay out to the cattle using helicopters, but I was raised to take care of my own livestock - that means if I live in an area that gets a blizzard now and then, I better have a way to get hay out to the cattle. If that means working in the freezing cold in a white-out, it sucks to be a cattle rancher but that's what it takes or I lose my crop.

I apply the same logic to the almond farmers - I would prefer they figure how to get the crop pollinated rather than the USDA (my tax dollars) having to bail them out. I agree that a lot of research needs to be done, but I think a little business continuity planning right now is going to pay big dividends.

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#13

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 10:09 AM

Agriculture (especially food related) is not the place to go nuts with modern chemical advancements for short term benefit.

In my searches about the problem, I found an interesting things saying that organic beehives (no pesticides used to treat mites...or "renting" hives and transporting them around) are not affected by this problem and that their hives are flourishing. Could be an interesting solution.

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#14

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 11:52 AM

It's not just the commercial hives that are in trouble. I have a cherry tree that is usually buzzing (literally) with thousands of bees when in bloom. This year you could count the bees (less than 100). The cranberry growers around here rely on commercial keepers for pollination. Every one I've talked to about this is worried about this years crop.

I don't know if it's cell phones, pecticides, or mites but we better figure it out soon.

To say that the Almond growers should have figured out alternatives is pretty lame. This effects everyone. It is exactly the kind of thing that the USDA should be looking into.

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#15
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 12:14 PM

I see this attitude in all spectrums of society: "the government bodies should look into this...."

As with all problems, the more evidence that can be gathered, the better. Government agencies can only work with the data they are given, so each farmer/hive owner should document all their problems - exact locations & dates - and try to find what has occurred in the vicinity - is it 3G masts?

When the evidence is collated, a pattern will emerge - whether geographical, localised...

If you wait for centralised action, your livelihood may well be gone before the preliminaries are taken care of.

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#16
In reply to #15

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 12:46 PM

Lets take a step back here.

If instead of bees, people started randomly disappearing without any explanation, I think people would be less cavalier about government involvement. This is a classic case of self righteous indignation at other peoples problems. What we need to realize is this is everyone's problem.

Look, I'm not naive enough to believe that the government will be efficient about researching this issue, but it does have resources that dwarf orchid owners or beekeepers. To suggest they shouldn't get involved in something that has the potential to effect an multi-billion dollar industry seems short sighted. Also, lets avoid the temptation of blaming the victims here.

Statements such as "the orchids should have foreseen a bee epidemic" are ridiculous and ingenuous. In the history of man, only Noah has demonstrated such foresight, and he had God to talk to.

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#17
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 1:05 PM

Yes; absolutely, let's consider just what government action has done for us so far.

Sure, the War on Drugs, War on Terror, War on Crime and War to End All Wars may have been disappointing. Certainly, nobody intended that the Ponzi-scheme Social Security/ Medicare and War on Poverty would make worse the problems they intended to correct.

Our government learned a lot from its mis-steps with slavery, indian genocide, injecting school kids with plutonium, killing all the Bison, Waco, etc. And now we know that NASA didn't invent Tang and Velcro after all, perhaps our Space Program still needs some tweaking to get it just right.

But just look at what our politicians have done for education since the elimination of community schools, and there's no longer any doubt that we need to get people like Hillary, Ted and GWB on the job!

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#18
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 1:17 PM

We get the government(s) we deserve. When's the last time YOU voted for a bee loving rational government? ;)

Like one was ever offered, eh?

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#19
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 1:22 PM

Well, actually (blush), I've been pretty politically active. I've even been slammed on Wikipedia.

But have no fear.

I understand that Al Gore has donned a big (very big around the middle) bee outfit, and he's pollinating trees (along with a camera crew, of course) as we speak.

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#20
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 1:29 PM

Why stop there? You left out a ton of government debacles.

What of the terrible job the government did in its wars against Polio, Whooping Cough, Smallpox, and Tuberculosis?

The government's war against slavery was a disaster. So many Americans dying just so the Federal government could tell the States what to do! Slavery has always existed, and always will.

The government's efforts to stop child labor in this country at the turn of the century was a complete failure. I saw a couple of kids selling lemonade the other day at an outrageous markup.

Preservation of lands for posterity. Back off government, just trust your citizens to do the right thing. Now, where's my axe.

Universal Schooling is tyrannical. Why in the world should children be forced to learn math when they are needed in the fields to harvest?

Suffrage? Doesn't the government know that voting only works when it is done by white men?

I'm sure that whole Nazi thing would have blown over. Really, did we really need to get involved?

I'm tired of the daily rolling blackouts and water rationing. Seriously, how hard is it to maintain stable electricity and reliable drinking water for 300 million people?

Also, that whole one country, one currency thing is boring. For shame Hamilton, you've robbed me of the fun of 50 different currencies.

How could anyone believe that a central authority filled with corrupt politicians ever do anything useful?

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#21
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 2:01 PM

I wish this were the place to debate this subject; I bet it'd be fun for us both.

But you really ought to look deeper into the episodes you cite. You take a lot of credit away from scientists, entrepreneurs, ordinary folk and engineers, and hand it over to a class of people you need to meet. I've been deeply involved with these people for over a decade, and you really, really ought to learn more about those you trust with so much. And you ought to have more trust in those who fight government.

After all, "Power conceded nothing without demand" (former slave Frederick Douglass, 1857). It's non-politicians who fought intransigent, wicked politicians who freed slaves, ended the government-created corporate machines (corporations are government entities, not free-market creations) that abused workers, pushed for women's suffrage, invented cures and technologies to make life better, longer, more comfortable and productive.

But bringing this back on topic, government has a terrible record of environmental interventions (kudzu, anyone?).

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#23
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 2:58 PM

It wasn't my intention to take away from the scientists, entrepreneurs, etc., but what good are immunizations without a government to make it mandatory. In those examples I selected, the government played an important role.

You wrote "You really, really ought to learn more about those you trust with so much"

Who said I trust them? I think the government could help in the bee problem because it threatens the tax revenue generated by these orchards. Food exports are big business and the politicians have a vested interest in keeping the wheels greased. I don't trust them to do the right thing, I trust their greed and their fear of a backlash.

You wrote "you ought to have more trust in those who fight government"

No, I don't trust them either. I've read history, I know what revolution brings.

There is a great line from Lawrence of Arabia that sums up my feelings well. Prince Feisal, a politician in the truest sense says:

"With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion. With me, it is merely good manners. You may judge which motive is the more reliable."

Of course later in the war Lawrence slaughters a column of Turks as revenge for their destruction of a village. Mercy based on passion is fleeting and unreliable.

The government is hit or miss with environmental interventions. I think it's policies on endangered species and animal rights have been laudable in the big picture. The think the national park service is a noble idea. I'm not saying the government doesn't do terrible things, it does, it's run by men (and women), but I certainly wouldn't characterize it's history of interventions as all bad and certainly wouldn't suggest that it was beyond the realm of possibility that it might prove helpful regarding this bee problem.

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#24
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 3:18 PM

Well, like I said, I'd like to argue with you about this stuff.

Since it's the human default to build Golden Calf Kings, my tendency is to push hard toward the mistakes of free men on the hopes that we'll minimize the mistakes of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Caligula...

Sad fact is that whether we ask for government intervention or not, we'll get it. That's what they do.

But your points are well taken.

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#25
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 3:47 PM

You Wrote "Your points are well taken"

You make plenty of good points as well, and I'd rather disagree all day with someone with informed opinions than agree with the oblivious.

Also, just so everyone is clear, I hate bees, I just like apples.

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#22
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 2:06 PM

Unfortunately when it comes to government we have to take the good with the bad. No argument that there are lots of screw ups to point at....lot of good stuff too though. This has to be looked at closely and understood. Whether it's in a government lab, university ,or someone's garage I really don't care.

It's certainly money better spent than lots of the crap they pass. Of course this will mean the construction of a new $50 million pork barrel project somewhere instead of just using existing facilities and organizing the effort but what more can you expect from such a bloated bureaucracy

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#28
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 5:17 PM

Hi Roger,

Sorry if I was not clear enough: I was not suggesting that the Government agencies should not get involved, but that the sooner data is collected, the more accurate it can be, and trends may be spotted which will further the farmers' cause. It may also make the work of the Agency easier if there is a wealth of data available to help them "hit the floor running", rather than waiting for an agency to do everything, once government actually sees fit to set one up.

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#26

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 4:03 PM

What is needed is a central database of where and when hives are lost. The fact that commercial/political reasons may cause some to cover up their own stats is not a reason for failing to make a start. Does anybody know of such an initiative. Surely trade associations of those directly affected (bee keepers, crop growers ) must have made a start here ? Unless some attempt at quantifying the problem is made , no solution (if required) can be found. How many hives , where , when. Potential causes may not be found without this information.

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#27
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 4:38 PM

Good point.

I can attest that on my farm, we have no bee shortage. I see as many honey bees as is typical; which is a little more than I saw the past two years. In fact I'm seriously irritated by the wood-boring bees that've lately taken to eating my barn.

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#29
In reply to #27

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/24/2007 10:49 PM

Back on topic though... whisper words of wisdom, let it bee.

John

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#30
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/25/2007 12:49 AM

Floyds 'Honey' was better.Kching.

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#31

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/25/2007 1:37 AM

I don't know about the bees missing but we just found out a deadly virus called White Spot has been found in several crawfish ponds here in south Louisiana.

The virus which hitched a ride from Asia, can kill ALL crustaceans and possibly arachnids also. the USDA has quarantined several rice ponds where the dead crawfish (and virus) were found.

The crawfish business is a local thing but it accounts for about $95 million USD every year.

Add the shrimp and crab harvesting and it could get real messy.........

A virus such as this could end seafood production along the entire Gulf Coast.

As for the bees...........you are right, very few honey bees around these days.

i wonder what is happening to the Killer Bees that were swarming in from Texas and Arizona a few years ago?

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#32
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Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/25/2007 8:49 AM

Yikes! That's spooky...

One of my dogs got a kind of parasitic worm I'd never heard of by eating our crawfish. Until then I'd been thinking I'd like to make a mess of etuffe, since we have a lot of crawfish the size of a rat.

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#33

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/25/2007 9:52 AM

You probably have the Rusticus species. Big head, fat & wide tails...like to live in streams and not too scared of cold water. they are found all the way up to Canada.

Most crawfish have a permanent parasite ( like pelicans). It is what kills raccoons when they eat the crawfish.

No one should ever try crawfish sushi .

Hope your hound gets better.

netmaker

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#34

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/25/2007 12:31 PM

CCD is tremendously concerning - be concerned, as Einstein himself said if all honey bees vanished mankind would be extinct in four years! One interesting fact brought up by one beekeeper is that the typical predator bees and moths that attack empty hives won't touch these hives! Makes one wonder what the bees brought in. The microwave theory is interesting, but given the global aspect of CCD, are these microwaves occurring in Europe, Canada, US, etc?

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: The Big Problem No One Is Talking About

05/26/2007 1:39 AM

Yes- if your country has cell-phone communication 3g (camera built in).

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