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The California Drought is Making Life Pretty Rough for Bees

The California Drought is Making Life Pretty Rough for Bees

When it comes to food, the California drought has affected many things that we eat: berries, beer and avocados just to name a few. Now there’s yet another item to add to that list: honey.

Traditionally, California has been one of the top producers of honey. Now, however, with fewer crops on account of the drought, honeybees have had fewer places to forage, and they’re producing much less honey because of it. Since the drought began three years ago, honey production in California has fallen from 27.5 million pounds in 2010 to 10.9 million pounds in 2013, according to the AP reports. This year, things are expected to be even worse.

“Our honey crop is severely impacted by the drought,” Gene Brandi, a beekeeper in Los Banos, a farming town in California’s Central Valley told the AP.

That’s bad for business and it’s also bad for the honey consumer. There was already a worldwide shortage of honey, and the drought has helped pushes prices to an all-time high. “Over the past eight years, the average retail price for honey has increased 65 percent from $3.83 to $6.32 per pound, according to the National Honey Board,” reports CBS News.

To keep their bees alive, some beekeepers are having to supplement with sugar syrup or high-fructose corn syrup since there is a lack of the honeybees’ usual diet of nectar.

“Not only are you feeding as an expense, but you aren’t gaining any income,” beekeeper Mike Brandi told the AP. “If this would persist, you’d see higher food costs, higher pollination fees and unfortunately higher prices for the commodity of honey.”

While feeding the bees sugar keeps them alive, it doesn’t get the bees producing honey, and it doesn’t keep the bees as healthy; without the same nutrients as the pollen, keeping bees on a sugar diet makes them susceptible to diseases.

Given their current situation, that’s a bit of a slap in the face if you’re a honeybee. Bees have already been having a rough go of things, what with Colony Collapse Disorder and all. Have you seen the pictures of what your grocery store aisle would look like without bees? It’s pretty dismal. As pollinators, bees are essential to our food production, and without them we risk the threat of a global food crisis.

We need bees, and they need food; a good reminder of how interconnected our food systems truly are.

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Photo Credit: dni777

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89 comments

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7:45PM PDT on Sep 9, 2014

New Honey report is out and 2014 looks to be a splendid year for honey production! The only state with slightly below production is CA due to the drought. Varroa mite appears to be more problematic in some states more than others depending on management practices.

12:46AM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

Bob, neonicotinoid insecticide is only effective for 6-8 weeks and is fully decomposed and no longer has any toxicity by the time the soybeans begin flowering so it has no effect on bees. We need ways to control the soybean aphid, some try it, but most don't becuause the aphid does not come here till mid July when it is no longer effective. In cases where the population of aphids go over 250 per plant farmers must spray to get rid of the aphids or lose the crop. Aphids can go from 250 to 2000 in 4 days. The key to saving the butterfly is to take out the soybean aphid (came from shipment from china). The bee technically has it's own specific issue not related to insecticides.

12:15AM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

Dale, Monsanto has nothing to do with this...... but they are working on a way to make soybeans resistant to the soybean aphid by using the aphids own pheremones which will be a huge benefit!

11:29PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

The cause of decline is bees has to do with Colony COllapse Disorder. It is caused by a tiny mite which carries a virus which is the root cause of the decline of bee's. It has nothing to do with pesticides since farmers do keep track of hives and do avoid any toxicity around them.

8:25AM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Drought certainly is not helping the bees anymore than is the overuse of deadly, toxic pesticides by Monsanto and the rest of them.

Bees need our protection or they will cease to exist and that will be the end of much our present agriculture, the necessary production of food will be difficult, without bees.

Once they become extinct, we can say goodbye to almonds and many other popular foods if we are not careful.

7:18PM PDT on Aug 31, 2014

Click on the link to see pictures of what your grocery store would look like without bees. Scary stuff.

3:34PM PDT on Aug 31, 2014

never in my mind did I ever give this a thought!! it just goes to show you just how much one thing effects some many other things...big AND small!!

9:48AM PDT on Aug 31, 2014

We have a perfect circular storm here, triggered by overuse of fossil fuels and herbicides/pesticides. There is now herbicide in low doses everywhere in the environment. Any growers using gyphosates (round up) and/or neonicotinoid is adding to the problem. Why the agriculture sector is so slow to wake up to the reality that they are slowly killing their own industry to make short term profits, and enrich the merchants of doom that are the agribiz corporations, is hard to really understand.

Kill the weeds, and kill of butterflys and insects like bees that don't just forage in farmers fields.

Treat the seed with nicotinoid based poisons, and kill the bees.

Cut down the green growing things that suck up heat and absorb CO2, and the uv-rays of the sun kill soil microbes, making future growth all the more dependent on fossil-fuel derived and delivered fertilizers.

To suggest, as this article seems to do, that the drought is somehow a non-controllable event and primary cause of collapse, is to not recognize all of the interrelated factors at play here. It is not just the food systems that are "interconnected", it is the entire web of life on this planet, and the sooner farmers realize they have been "had" by the likes of Monstanto, Bayer, and the fossil fuel fossils and give them an unceremonious boot into history, the sooner we might see the planet start to recover. Once the bees and butterflies are gone, it may well be too late.

8:21AM PDT on Aug 31, 2014

The wet weather in the east has also adversely impacted the bees as they cannot go out and forage in the rain. We will have no honey harvest this year and will focus on keeping the bees alive through the winter.

6:00PM PDT on Aug 30, 2014

There is a saying ..."As the bees go, so do we"

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