Bee die-off perplexes scientists
Loss of insects that pollinate plants threatens crops throughout U.S.
By Sandy Bauers, Feb 10 PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
PHILADELPHIA - Something is killing the nation's honeybees.
Dave Hackenberg had 3,000 hives and figures he has lost all but about 800 of them.
In labs across the nation, researchers have been stunned by the number of calls about the mysterious losses.
"Every day, you hear of another operator," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "It's just causing so much death so quickly that it's startling."
At stake is the work the honeybees do, pollinating more than $15 billion worth of U.S. crops, including Pennsylvania's apple harvest, the fourth-largest in the nation, worth $45 million, and New Jersey's cranberries and blueberries.
While a few crops, such as corn and wheat, are pollinated by the wind, most need bees. Without these insects, crop yields would fall dramatically. Agronomists estimate Americans owe one in three bites of food to bees.
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LEWISBURG — One day last November, David Hackenberg, of Lewisburg, went out to check on some of his honey bees and found the 400 hives completely empty.
There was no sign of the bees, dead or alive. There was no sign that a predator had been there, and no other bugs had moved in.
Something was horribly wrong.
"They'd all vanished," he said, speaking on the phone from Florida, where he spends the winter so that his bees can pollinate fruit orchards all year-long. "This is unheard of."