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MI Honeybee Decline Continues – Scientists Still Baffled

July 27, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - Honeybees, which play a vital role in our food supply, are disappearing by the millions in Michigan and around the country, and have been for the last few years. The phenomenon has scientists and beekeepers baffled, although habitat, parasites and chemicals may all play a role. In any case, the decline needs to be stopped, because about a third of the domestic food supply depends on pollination by honeybees.

David Mizejewski , a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation, says the strange and troubling occurrence that has been dubbed "Colony Collapse Disorder" has been going on for some 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."

According to Roger Sutherland, the president of the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association, Michigan beekeepers have seen an average loss of 40 percent in hives this year. But Sutherland says he's not convinced it's colony collapse disorder because rather than bees disappearing, keepers are reporting dead bees.

Regardless, Sutherland says, it appears to be related to added stress factors affecting the insects.

"There are new diseases, resistance against chemicals; we may have overused many medications to our detriment. And we're seeing a trend now of people not medicating as much as they used to because it's just not as effective."

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

Naturalist David Mizejewski says that as scientists continue to investigate, the public can help by making yards, gardens or balconies more "wildlife friendly," with native plants, and by staying away from the use of chemical pesticides whenever possible.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI