This week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released survey results that showed a six percent increase in honeybee deaths during the winter, with 28 percent of bee colonies dying.
The USDA estimates that a quarter of all the food we eat comes from plants pollinated by bees. A decrease in bee pollination could mean a decrease in food production, resulting in higher food prices.
While some attribute the rising death rate to the proliferation of hobbyist beekeepers that may not know how to adequately care for their colonies, the trend of increasing bee deaths continues.
The 28 percent death rate is about average, but beekeepers say that 17 percent is the maximum acceptable level.
Almonds and blueberries are just a few of the crops that rely almost exclusively on bee pollination to continue growth year after year. Agriculture production from insect population clocks in at a little less than $200 billion each year of economic output.
Researchers have dubbed this bee colony death as Colony Collapse Disorder, but little is known about how and why it occurs. Pesticides, varroa mites and lack of food all contribute to a bee’s struggle to survive.
The increase in bee deaths is still below the peak death rate of 36 percent that occurred nine years ago, but with more than a quarter of bees dying each year and the prohibitive cost to rebuild a colony, hobbyists and commercial beekeepers may abandon the practice, putting an end to nature’s most efficient pollination.
Crop prices (May 17)
Rio Creek Feed Mill – Algoma
|Commodity||Price (per bushel)||Basis|
Fox River Valley Ethanol – Green Bay
Basis: The difference between the local cash price for a commodity and the Chicago cash price (where the Board of Trade sets national futures price).
Gas Price Averages
United States: $2.23
United States one year ago: $2.70
Wisconsin one year ago: $2.61
Northern Door: $2.34
Sturgeon Bay: $2.28
Gold: $1,279.80/troy ounce
Silver: $17.26/troy ounce
Sources: aaa.com, agweb.com, gasbuddy.com, cnn.money, The Economist, Wisconsin State Farmer