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New Hampshire Farms Buzzing About Bee Shortage

April 18, 2008

Durham, NH - New Hampshire's orchards are buzzing with a riddle this year: What do you get when springtime comes and there aren't enough honeybees? The answers are, a new threat to local apple farmers, and higher food prices for everyone. Conservation biologist Gabriela Chavarria, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the mysterious disease known as "colony collapse disorder" is wiping out hives and could devastate Granite State crops, including apples, pumpkins, and even berries.

"All of those crops are totally dependent on pollinators. Last year, I think they did well, but they're very worried that this year there are not going to be enough honeybees to go around, because a lot of the beekeepers have lost their bees."

Chavarria believes the shortage of bees, combined with other market factors like surging oil prices, could drive up the costs of food.

"The fact that, in the United States, we're not going to have enough bees to pollinate the amount of food that we need -- that alone will increase the price. But it will also increase prices because we're going to have to bring food from outside of the country."

Chavarria says some beekeepers are getting out of the business altogether, which has made the shortage more acute. She believes Congress needs to take action, by giving subsidies to beekeepers affected by the problem and funding research into the causes. Congress considered such legislation last fall, but failed to act on it.

John Robinson/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NH