The California Drought is Making Life Pretty Rough for Bees
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.
Photo Credit: dni777