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60-Second Earth

Whither the Honey Bee?

For the fourth consecutive year, roughly one third of managed honey bees died last winter. David Biello reports

This past winter, about 30 percent of all the managed honeybees in the U.S. died. That's according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Such a die-off is no longer unusual. About a third of honeybees have perished every winter since 2006.

Given that recent history, USDA entomologist Jeff Pettis characterized this as quote "marginally encouraging" given that quote "the problem does not appear to be getting worse."

Of course, the problem has been getting worse since at least the 1980s, when parasitic mites first invaded the U.S. Our friend Apis mellifera has never recovered. Now so-called "Colony Collapse Disorder" or CCD continues to kill bees--who provide some $15-billion worth of economic good via pollination and other efforts.

To really solve the problem would require much more than solving the mystery of CCD. It would require a shift away from the widespread use of pesticides that unintentionally impact bees and the large-scale agriculture that forces them to subsist on a single type of flower rather than their usual diverse diet. Plus, there's the globalization that allows bee-killing disorders to spread rapidly and easily. What a buzz kill.

—David Biello

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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