21 May 2010

A Backyard Battleground to Save the Honeybee

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Catharine Reeves, a 49-year-old lawyer from Bethesda, Md.,  is doing her part to save the honeybee.

 

She is a newly minted backyard beekeeper. She tends two hives and thousands of bees, which might produce just a jar or two of honey by mid-summer, if she's lucky.

She is a newly minted backyard beekeeper. She tends two hives and thousands of bees, which might produce just a jar or two of honey by mid-summer, if she's lucky.

At beekeepers meetings, "now, it's professional people, doctors, lawyers, teachers," says Paul Jackson, chief apiary inspector in Texas. In years past, attendance was mostly farmers, ranchers and 4-H kids, he says.

Roughly one-third of what we eat depends on honeybees for pollination. As bees collect pollen for food, they spread it from one flower to another, which helps plants reproduce.

Recently, honeybees have received considerable attention because of a mysterious affliction known as "colony collapse disorder," in which much of a colony suddenly disappears, leaving the queen behind. So far, scientists have not been able to determine the cause—or come up with a solution.

Bees have faced numerous challenges in recent decades. Changes in agricultural practices, from the use of certain pesticides to farmland planted with single crops—typically soybeans or corn—give bees less nutritional diversity in the pollen and nectar they consume. New pathogens and pests have also contributed to wiping out millions of colonies.

(The Wall Street Journal)

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