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Where's the Bees? The Buzz on More Food Price Hikes

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For Angelenos, bees are more often than not encountered as sugar-drunk spastics outside of a neighborhood recycling center, sippers of sweet nectar from your garden's flowers, or a stinging source of outdoor anguish. But there's actually a nationwide "bee crisis" that pertains specifically to honey bees and their unexpected decline, and now what's been a problem for farmers is getting passed on to the consumers in the form of higher food prices.

To put it plainly, as one grower is quoted in an AP article published today in the Daily Breeze: "No bees, no crops." Bees pitch in a share of the labor when it comes to tending crops--their unique job is to pollinate, like they do north from here in places like Modesto among the almond blossoms in spring. What crops benefit from bee labor? According to an AP report last year published on MSNBC.com, "Among them: apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash and cucumbers. And lots of the really sweet and tart stuff, too, including citrus fruit, peaches, kiwi, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and other melons." In fact, they do their duty for "90 of the tastiest flowering crops we have."

But as CBS News reported earlier this year, the bee population isn't just dwindling, it's plain dying out. It's called "colony collapse disorder" and is attributed to a potential mix of causes, from malnutrition to disease to pesticides.

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Consumers, already feeling the pain of a higher cost of living from the gas pump to the grocery store, are going to have to absorb the financial ramifications of the "bee crisis." Higher prices on fruits and vegetables can, and will continue to be attributed to poor crop yields, and food products that employ ingredients that are sourced from these crops will most likely also rise in price. So if you can afford the gas to get you to your neighborhood Vons, Whole Foods, or Jons, you'll be opening your wallet even wider.

When it comes down to dollars, "Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion annually in crop value." However, yesterday the federal government stepped up to the plate--or the hive, if you will--with potential cash to put towards researching what is happening and how it can be prevented: "The House Appropriations Committee approved $780,000 on Thursday for research on the disorder and $10 million for bee research. The money awaits approval by the full House and Senate." Although that might help future crops, the crisis is now, and it's the consumer's turn to feel the sting.

Photo by david.nikonvscanon via Flickr