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Honey Please Don't Go

Have you heard the buzz about bees? They seem to be disappearing.

In the last three years, more than 30 percent of the honeybee population in the United States has vanished in a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In instances of CCD, honeybees rapidly and permanently abandon their hive. Where they go is unknown, and no re-emergence has been recorded. Scientists believe that after deserting their hives the honeybees die. The suspected causes of CCD include poor nutrition, exposure to chemicals, and mites.

Fewer honeybees equal less honey, an obvious equation. It might surprise you, however, to know just how large an impact the tiny creatures have on other foods.

Commercially kept honeybees are responsible for pollinating at least 80 percent of over 100 crops in the US including apples, onions, strawberries, and broccoli. (Wild honeybees fell prey to mites in the 1990s and remain on the brink of extinction.) Without the help of honeybees, cherry and blueberry yields would fall by an estimated 90%.

Do you like almonds? Without the pollination efforts of honeybees, the entire crop would fail. No bees, no nuts.

According to Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation, ''Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on a honeybee to pollinate that food.''

What can we do?

Support beekeepers by buying local honey and other bee-produced products such as soaps and beeswax candles. Many beekeepers have lost entire hives, and in some cases, livelihoods. Their knowledge plays an important part in the ongoing research to solve the honeybee crisis, and buying their products provides direct assistance while research continues. Honey is not only delicious and versatile, it is a purchase you can feel good about in every way.

Farmers markets and produce stands often stock regional honey. If you need assistance, the National Honey Board offers a free Honey Locator service to get you on the trail to the sweet stuff.

For more information on the honeybee crisis and more ways to help, go to www.helpthehoneybees.com or www.greatsunflower.org.