A decade ago, California was the number-one honey producing state in the nation. Today, California honey accounts for less than 10 percent of America’s annual honey production. This worrisome decline is due in large part to the record-breaking drought that has been ravaging California for the last four years.
In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the Golden State, imposing strict water conservation policies in hopes of mitigating the effects of the drought. In spite of these measures, officials are still concerned about the impact that the drought continues to have on agriculture in California.
The absence of rain has left much of California brown and parched, with few crops and wildflowers for honeybees to forage from. Beekeepers’ livelihoods depend on their bees’ ability to pollinate local crops such as almonds and melons. Without crops for their bees to pollinate, Beekeepers are left without honey and without money. Last year, many beekeepers were forced to sustain their colonies with supplemental sugar syrup feed; another costly expense that is exacerbated by a lack of income. In order to preserve their colonies, some California beekeepers have taken their hives to other states such as North Dakota where their bees can still thrive in clover and buckwheat fields.
This drought is the latest in a series of serious concerns that have faced honeybee populations in recent years. Pesticides, disease, and the mysterious colony collapse syndrome have all contributed to the loss of tens of millions of honeybee hives over the course of the last decade. In the winter of 2012 alone, nearly a third of the honeybee colonies in the United States were decimated by colony collapse syndrome.
Scientists have diagnosed the problem, but thus far no solutions to honeybee population loss have been identified. With honeybees responsible for the pollination of roughly $30 billion worth of crops in the United States, the scientific community is deeply concerned about the effects the disappearing honeybees will have on food production in the future.