colony collapse disorder

Is high-fructose corn syrup behind honeybee's colony collapse disorder?

My post yesterday on honeybees' colony collapse disorder prompted my wife Sally to point out that I'd missed an intriguing post on the same subject by my friend, the brilliant investigative reporter Andrew Schneider.

Andrew reports on new research that points to beekeepers' use of high-fructose corn sweetener as a possible culprit in the die-off  of something like half the honeybees used for commercial pollination of crops in this country.

It seems that a toxin can be produced when high fructose corn sweetener is manufactured. As the abastract of the study just published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry points out:

In the United States, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has become a sucrose replacement for honey bees and has widespread use as a sweetener in many processed foods and beverages for human consumption. It is utilized by commercial beekeepers as a food for honey bees for several reasons . . .  Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a heat-formed contaminant and is the most noted toxin to honey bees. Currently, there are no rapid field tests that would alert beekeepers of dangerous levels of HMF in HFCS or honey.

The study (PDF) mentions that the corn syrup products are used to feed bees to start brood production in the spring, when the bees are being transported, and when nectar sources are not plentiful (such as in the fall, presumably.) Recall, though, that the bee die-offs are going on primarily in the fall and winter. So, why don't the bees dies in the spring and the summer when they're eating the stuff?

Like the other explanations, this could be just a part of the picture.

Honeybees' colony collapse disorder threatens our food supply

[caption id="attachment_5252" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Dateline Earth trying to bee all we can bee. Photo courtesy pdphoto.org"]Dateline Earth trying to bee all we can bee. Photo courtesy pdphoto.org[/caption]

After bemoaning the loss of Gourmet magazine and its environmental reporting a few weeks ago, I found it encouraging to hear a pretty good enviornmental story over the weekend on the foodie-focused radio program The Splendid Table.

Host Lynn Rosetto Casper had on the show author and journalist Rowan Jacobsen, who was flogging his new book "Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis." (Jacobsen's tucked in way at the end if you don't want to listen to the rest of the show. But I'm warning you: About midway through Casper has some great ideas for using green tomatoes and apples with character, like winesaps, as savory side dishes.)

I was surprised to learn the colony collapse disorder, which we wrote about on several occasions when honeybees started dying en masse in 2007, is continuing to this day.

In fact, Jacobsen said about 31 percent of the commercial honeybees -- used to pollinate scads of American crops -- died over the autumn and winter of 2007 to 2008, and 37 percent of the remaining ones died over last fall and winter.

Having heard little about this recently, I assumed the problem was easing. But no. And researchers still aren't sure what is causing it. Some blame a pesticide. And there's also a new bee virus at work.