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VA Honeybee Decline Continues – Scientists Still Baffled

July 20, 2010

RESTON, Va. - Honeybees are disappearing in what scientists and beekeepers say are alarming numbers, and while no one can say with certainty what the cause is, one thing is for sure: The decline needs to be halted because the bees play a vital role in our food supply.

David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation in Reston, and he says the strange and troubling occurrence that has been dubbed "Colony Collapse Disorder" has been going on for a few years now.

"Scientists are still trying to figure out what exactly is causing it, but what we do know is that it's causing the deaths of honeybee colonies in all parts of the country, and it's sort of mysterious in that the bees literally just disappear out of the hive."

Mizejewski says that bees not only produce honey, but they're depended upon to pollinate a variety of crops. He says as scientists continue to investigate, the public can help by making yards, gardens or balconies more "wildlife friendly," with native plants, and staying away from the use of chemical pesticides whenever possible.

Mizejewski describes the process in utilizing bees for large-scale crops, which could also disrupt the lives of the insects.

"Their hives are put out there, the bees go out and do their pollination, and then the beekeepers pack them back up on trucks and bring them to wherever their home base is. It's a big part of the agricultural process and economy."

Dr. Richard Fell is a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech and secretary for the Virginia State Beekeepers Association. He says that beekeepers in Virginia have seen an average loss of 31 percent in hives this year.

"And it's a major concern, and I think they really are doing all they can to try and protect colonies, particularly do what they can to improve colony health."

There are several theories regarding the disappearance of bees, including parasitic mites, habitat loss, and the use of pesticides, especially with large commercial growers.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA