Honeybees at unsustainable levels: over one-third lost

Cross-posted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Reuters

A disturbing new survey has reported that 36.1 percent of commercial honeybee colonies have been lost, the majority due to a mysterious phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD) where the bees abandon their hives and disappear.
SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A survey of bee health released Tuesday revealed a grim picture, with 36.1 percent of the nation's commercially managed hives lost since last year. Last year's survey commissioned by the Apiary Inspectors of America found losses of about 32 percent.

As beekeepers travel with their hives this spring to pollinate crops around the country, it's clear the insects are buckling under the weight of new diseases, pesticide drift and old enemies like the parasitic varroa mite. (snip)

About 29 percent of the deaths were due to colony collapse disorder, a mysterious disease that causes adult bees to abandon their hives. Beekeepers who saw CCD in their hives were much more likely to have major losses than those who didn't.
The University of Pennsylvania has received emergency grants of ~$80,000 to investigate the problem. These funds have been supplemented by up to a $250,000 grant from Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Company to be split between the university and U.C. California Davis. The ice cream company relies upon honeybees for pollination of plants that provide many of the natural flavors used in their products.

This earlier report,
It's Official, the Honeybees are Gone, discussed the measures being taken in Congress to address the problem and gives a list of foods that will no longer be as available, should we lose the honeybees altogether. A second report, The Plight of the Bumblebee, discusses the frightening loss of species in that genus, as well.