more urban folk totally ignore - until they price of food goes up or their favourite honey is no longer available. Hemp figures into this picture as it provided crop diversity, a much needed option in a world of corn, soy and cotton - as the articles below tell us, this is suspected as a cause. Other things are suspected as well, such as pesticide use - which could be curtailed by the use of hemp.
This year the New York Times has done at least two excellent articles on this subject, the first of which is by Jim Wilson, published on p. A1,A17 on 29 March, and the second, by John M. Broder, published on p. A13 on 3 May:
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.
The problems affect pollination of U.S. agricultural products worth tens of billions of dollars a year. The report does not place more weight on one factor over another, and it recommends a range of actions and further research.
Honeybees are used to pollinate hundreds of crops, from almonds to strawberries to soybeans. Since 2006, millions of bees have been dying in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. The cause or causes have been the subject of much study and speculation.
The federal report appears the same week that European officials took steps toward banning a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, derived from nicotine, that they consider a critical factor in the mass deaths.
Officials in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and others involved in the bee study said that there was not enough evidence to support a ban on one group of pesticides, and that the costs of such action might exceed the benefits.
"There are nontrivial costs to society if we get this wrong," said Jim Jones, the agency's acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. "There are meaningful benefits from these pesticides to farmers and to consumers, as well as for affordable food."
May R. Berenbaum, head of the department of entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and a participant in the study, said examination of dead bees had found residues of more than 100 chemicals, insecticides and pesticides.
One of the most fatal afflictions in bee colonies is the parasitic mite Varroa destructor, which infests beehives and is thought to be responsible for numerous die-offs. Another factor is the planting of vast areas in a single crop such as corn, limiting forage supplies for bees.