Recently it has come to my attention that all of the nations bees are seriously threatened. I know, it's hard to believe that it would be a big deal, and in fact, no one has really made a big stink about it yet. But it's important. Why, you might ask? Well, even if you didn't ask, you should probably read on since this topic definitely affects everyone, even if you don't like honey or bees. Most people know that bees are responsible for honey and bee stings but what you may not know is that they are a much more important member of the agricultural community. Bees, especially honey bees, are responsible for the pollination of flowers (you might be saying duh, here but follow me on this one, please), and said pollination causes plants to actually bear fruits as the method of their reproduction. And said fruits are important for not only human nutrition, but also for that of most of the animals we raise as pets and most of the animals that we eat. This topic came to my attention from my grandfather, an almost retired farmer. He brought it up to my mother in this manner. Grandpa: "Hey, The Fidge (that's me, btw) is a biologist, right?" Mom: "you know she is" G: "Well, can she tell me why the lady down the road's bees are almost all dead?" M: "Really? They are almost all dead? Why?" G: " Well, if we knew, we wouldn't be asking The Fidge, would we? Of her 20 hives, only two of them are still alive. All of the other hives are dead. And the other guy down the road, he had 125 hives and now only maybe twenty of them are still alive. They asked me if I knew what was happening, and I said I would ask the Fidge." So, this has become a job for me. Although I am just using the internet to research it, I do plan on calling a visit on these beekeepers to talk to them about their practices, but in the meantime I will fill you in on what the vast spaces of the interweb have to say about this little bee apocalypse. First of all, officials are calling this epidemic Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD for short. (I just would like to point out that everything needs an acronym.) This used to be called Fall Dwindle Disease (FDD) but it was changed b/c it was noticed that this is not due to seasonality, nor can it be ruled to just being a disease. Actually, most experts are baffled to what exactly CCD is. Basically, they can't narrow it down to what is really killing all the bees. For example, according to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences news release on the topic: "Preliminary work has identified several likely factors that could be causing or contributing to CCD," says Dennis van Engelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "Among them are mites and associated diseases, some unknown pathogenic disease and pesticide contamination or poisoning." That helps narrow it down, doesn't it? So, basically we can't really rule out anything at this point. We don't know what is killing the bees, and we can't decide what it could be, either. Most of the information I am using in my research comes from the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium Web site. In the hives that were researched by MAAREC there was evidence of vampire mites, a small parasite that lives off the "blood" of adult bees, viral infection, stress due to constant relocation of hives for crop pollination, intestinal amoebas, fungal infection, stunted learning and development due to industry chemicals (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides), and on and on. You get the point. We have not been able to narrow CCD down to any particular thing, which makes it incredibly difficult to treat the problem. The drastic amount of bees found dead over such a short period of time is what is so scary about the whole thing. A small bee apocalypse, the few surviving bees are all very young adults from what most beekeepers can see. I mean, as I pointed out, the two local cases above have lost an incredible amount of bees from their original numbers, and this is the case all around the country. The rate at which these bees are dying is alarming, especially since we cannot narrow the cause of their mortality down to anything specific. According to Jean-Louis Santini of AFP, "Bee numbers on parts of the east coast and in Texas have fallen by more than 70 percent, while California has seen colonies drop by 30 to 60 percent. It is normal for hives to see populations fall by some 20 percent during the winter, but the sharp loss of bees is causing concern, especially as domestic US bee colonies have been steadily decreasing since 1980." Well, either way, I have not really helped to narrow it down, but I hope you have learned something. Maybe this summer when food is really expensive you will know why, since most of the food we eat comes from the pollination efforts of bees, with only a few crops such as corn and wheat being wind pollinated. And just so you know, this is not something just limited to specific areas. This is affecting not only the US, but parts of Europe as well. This is a big deal, and no one seems to know anything about it. I figured I would end this article with a quote from Albert Einstein. "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man," This may seem a little extremist, but it does bring the point home.