A bitter end to honeybees?

When most people think of bees, they probably think of the easiest way to avoid getting stung, rather than the necessity of the bee to their survival.

According to a report by the Associated Press, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants. The honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination and many are disappearing without a trace.

In an effort to help discover the cause behind the bee population decrease, Grand Valley State University’s Bee Keeping Club has joined up with NASA’s HoneyBeeNet project to study the bees and try to bring the population back up.

“We installed two hives on campus last spring,” said Anne Marie Fauvel, a liberal studies professor and GVSU’s resident bee expert. “The last data from the state of Michigan dated back to 1954 and no other location in Michigan has been contributing since. GVSU would be the only point of reference for the state of Michigan in this project.”

Data is collected every 15 minutes during the day from the beehives, along with minimal weather information. The data is uploaded onto a website and passed on to the HoneyBeeNet project.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the population decrease for honeybees was first detected in 2006, with reports of 30 – 90 percent losses from hives. Out of all the colonies affected, as many as 50 percent did not demonstrate symptoms consistently known to cause honeybee deaths.

Instead, they found that the colonies’ worker bees practically disappeared, leaving few dead bees near the colony. The queen bee and the young remained in the hives, which had sufficient honey and pollen reserves, but there were no worker bees.

This phenomenon has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder, and there still is no determined cause.

Operation Bee, a movement to raise awareness of the mass disappearances of bee populations, estimates that by 2035, there will be no more bees in North America.

Data collected by the GVSU apiary (a collection of beehives), and from other locations across the continent, may provide information to help determine a cause for the decreasing bee population.

To get involved in the effort to save the bees, visit http://honeybeenet.gsfc.nasa.gov/Honeybees.htm, or join the GVSU Bee Keeping Club.

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