The buzz on bees: Why a bee shortage may impact food cost - FOX 32 News Chicago

The buzz on bees: Why a bee shortage may impact food cost

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The impact of our brutal winter could continue to be felt well into the summer. The cold weather has killed off a big part of the honey bee population. And you could end up paying for it.

At the Garfield Park Conservatory, where they have 13 hives, head bee keeper Naaman Gambill is keeping a close eye on the honey bee population.

“We lost 30 percent of our honey bees this year,” Gambill said, adding they were fortunate compared to other areas much harder hit.

“So far the numbers that are coming in are anywhere from 45 to 60 percent, depending on where you are in the nation,” Gambill said.

Phillip Raines, with Raines Honey Farm in Davis, Illinois says across parts of Illinois, losses are as high as 80 percent. Without bees to do their pollinating work on farms, there will be a major impact on produce, Raines said. Apple orchards in northern parts of the state could be hit particularly hard.

“Without bees you won’t get many apples,” Raines said, “and what you get will be small.”

Raines said the problem with bees dying off has been going on for 20 years now. Disease has played a role, experts say, as well as the increased use of pesticides and insecticides.

In Illinois, the dwindling fields of clover and alfalfa have also contributed to the problem, as the bees have few places to naturally survive.

“So you know when we have droughts or when we have cold winters like this that really affect our honeybee populations, that's going to have a trickle-down effect on the food that we see in our stores and maybe the price of those foods we see in the stores,” said the Conservatory’s Gambill

To give you some idea of what the impact on few bees could have on your food options, imagine you’re the produce section of your favorite grocery store, and then eliminate two thirds of what’s there. That’s how important bees are.

They pollinate fruits and vegetables including apples, almonds, pumpkins and squash, pears, peaches, plums, cherries and cranberries.

At Chicago's Dill Pickle Food Coop in Logan Square, where they sell locally grown produce, the impact could be felt this summer with higher prices.

“It scares us on a business level and it scares us on like a conservation level,” said Michael Gorka, the Coop’s grocery lead.

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