The natures of the beast: on the new uses of the honeybee
The current state of the honeybee is undeniably dismal, the consequences serious. Aside from honey and beeswax, over one-third of current global agriculture production depends on the honeybee for pollination (Cox-Foster and van Engelsdorp 2009). A considerable decline in honeybee populations began even before the latest reports of “colony collapse disorder.” In 2006 the number of hives in the U.S. was approximately 2.4 million, less than half of what it was in 1950 (Cox-Foster and van Engelsdorp 2009). Global environmental changes have been devastating, whether the intensification of industrial agriculture, toxic pollution, climate change, loss of habitat, or the spread of disease and parasites. But the most recent trouble came in 2006 and 2007, when almost 40 percent of honeybees in the U.S. disappeared and millions of hives around the world were lost (van Engelsdorp, et al. 2009; Cox-Foster and van Engelsdorp 2009). The decline in honeybee populations was so dramatic it eclipsed all previous mass mortality in the bee world, making it the worst recorded crisis in the multi-millennial history of beekeeping. There is still no consensus about the cause of this devastation.