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Stung by Losses, U.S. Beekeepers Try to Rebuild

June 26, 2008 | 32,993 views

beekeepers, honeybees, beesCommercial beekeepers across the United States have been hit hard over the last two years by a mysterious malady known as colony collapse disorder, which can seemingly wipe out hives overnight. Beekeepers are now desperately trying to breed more queen bees -- a lifeline for commercial beekeepers trying to replenish their depleted hives.

Honeybees are critical components of U.S. agriculture, used to pollinate nuts, fruits and vegetables. The California almond crop alone requires 1.3 million colonies of bees.

Beekeepers surveyed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service last winter reported a total loss of about 36 percent of their bee colonies, up from 13.5 percent a year ago. In an average year, beekeepers would incur losses of between 5 and 10 percent.

Despite years of attention, what’s causing colony collapse disorder has yet to be found. Theories include low-level pesticide exposure, Varroa mites, poor nutrition or a combination of factors that allow invaders to kill the bee colony.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

When most people think of honeybees, they think honey. But honey is only a sliver of what bees are used for in the United States. Bees are routinely moved across the country to pollinate nuts (California almonds in particular), fruits and veggies. Bees actually add an estimated $15 billion in value to crops like these.

In fact, a full one-third of the U.S. food supply depends on pollination from bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre to be adequately pollinated. So if bee colonies continue to be devastated by colony collapse disorder -- or whatever is causing them to die -- major food shortages could result.

Let’s Not Miss This Obvious Warning

When nature’s pollinators start to mysteriously die off, it is a major clue that something is out of balance. For starters, tens of billions of bees are transported across the United States to pollinate oranges, almonds and other food crops. Though the pollination is a normal part of nature, transporting bees thousands of miles in the backs of trucks to a new location is not. Some experts believe this process is stressing bees, quite literally, to death.

Other possible causes of colony collapse disorder have also been pinpointed:
Most researchers are pointing to a combination of the above factors. For instance, Penn State scientists analyzed pollen, beeswax, adult bees and larvae and found dozens of chemicals, including pesticides, present.

"This raises several complicated questions," Maryann Frazier, senior extension associate in entomology told Science Daily. "Some of these compounds could react with each other to cause toxic effects or could combine with viruses or poor nutrition to weaken immunity and cause colony collapse."

Of course, the first thing that came to my mind when I read about the “dozens of chemicals” turning up in bees are all of the chemicals now showing up in people.

One study by Mt. Sinai School of Medicine found that each of their volunteers averaged 91 chemical compounds in their blood and urine. Of the 167 chemicals discovered among the volunteers, 94 were toxic to your brain or nervous system, 76 were carcinogenic and 79 were linked to birth defects.

Even breast milk, nature’s perfect food, is now becoming tainted with chemicals like perchlorate (used to make rocket fuel) and synthetic polycyclic musk fragrances from personal care products.

Honeybees, tiny and fragile as they are, are obviously unable to cope with their toxic loads anymore. But if you think that humans are somehow immune to these toxic effects, think again. Though we are stopping short of dying off in mass numbers, we are facing epidemics of fertility problems, obesity, cancer, behavioral difficulties, emotional disturbances, autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases that cannot be simply shrugged off any longer.

What’s happened to the honeybees is a major warning signal. It’s time to clean up our acts before we reach the point of no return, or get ready to face the consequences.

14 Tips to Avoid Toxins

You can limit your exposure to environmental contaminants, and live as pure a life as possible, by:

1. Buying and eating, as much as possible, organic produce and locally raised, free-range, organic foods.

2. Rather than eating fish, which is largely contaminated with PCBs and mercury, consuming a high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil. 

3. Avoiding processed foods -- remember that they're processed with chemicals!

4. Only using natural cleaning products in your home.

5. Switching over to natural brands of toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.

6. Not spraying insect repellants that contain DEET on your body. There are safe, effective and natural alternatives out there.

7. Removing any metal fillings, as they're a major source of mercury. Be sure to have this done by a qualified biological dentist. Although nearly any dentist is technically qualified to replace your amalgam fillings, far less than 95 percent have any concept on how to do it properly to insure your risk of mercury exposure is minimized. Please avoid the mistake I have seen THOUSANDS of patients make, and have your fillings replaced by a qualified dentist.

8. Avoiding using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing.

9. Avoiding artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG.

10. Getting plenty of safe sun exposure to boost your vitamin D levels and your immune system (you'll be better able to fight disease).

11. Having your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, installing an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).

12. Seeking to build your health up through the nutrition insights detailed in Take Control of Your Health, and then limiting your use of drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) as much as possible. Drugs are chemicals too, and they will leave residues and accumulate in your body over time.

13. Avoiding the use of pesticides around your home and garden.

14. Signing up, and encouraging your friends to too, for the free Mercola.com e-newsletter, your premier source for the latest health insights.

[+] Sources and References

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