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Another Drought Casualty: Honey

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honeybees1

Photo:monica_r/Flickr/Creative Commons License

One of the first rules of trying to bring about change -- whether it's a national vote on civil rights or something more localized like trying to get the city to change their parking system -- is that people are only going to mobilize when they feel the issue personally impacts them. If someone's livelihood isn't being threatened in some capacity, if they're not made to feel uncomfortable in the least, they're not going to change anything.

Which is why it's so troubling no one feels all that affected by the continuing California drought.

The latest warning about how the drought is getting even worse includes one scary statistic: While most Californians believe the drought is a big problem, only 16% of those polled have been personally impacted by it. Sixteen percent. No wonder there hasn't been much progress in trying to find ways to lessen its impact.

But for a problem as all-encompassing as a massive drought, it's only a matter of time before the average person starts feeling the hurt. As a new report makes clear, that hurt is coming sooner rather than later for anyone who enjoys eating honey.

As if honeybees didn't already have it tough enough, what with their continued destruction due to the mysterious colony collapse disorder (along with jerks in Florida who can't stop using pesticides), this drought is giving them something else to worry about: No food.

To understand why, it's really a game of following the water. (Or, more accurately, following the lack of water.) Because there's a lack of water in the state, there are not as many flowers blooming. And because there are not as many flowers blooming, there's not as much nectar. And no nectar means nothing for the bees to eat. In other words, no water, no honey:

"I've never seen a year like this when it's not only dry but the irrigation water is so scarce," Brandi says. "I think the honey production in California will likely be one of the lowest levels we've seen in a long time."

It's gotten to the point where many hives in the state are producing one-tenth of their normal output. This isn't good news for anyone who enjoys the delicious sweetener.

Now, this doesn't just mean beekeepers are allowing their bees to starve to death. Instead, they're going through the pains of importing their own nectar. But that process is not free. It costs money. A lot of it:

[Beekeeper David] Bradshaw will spend about $80,000 on artificial nectar this summer just to keep his colonies from starving.

That's not money that beekeepers have saved up for a rainy day. That's money that will certainly have to be recouped in their product by jacking up the prices and passing it along to the consumer. Meaning, it's not a stretch to believe that the price of honey is going to skyrocket. Sooner rather than later, honey is going to be a luxury item that only the top one percent can afford!

Well, okay. Maybe that's exaggerating a little. But it is a good time to remind everyone, once again, of the importance conserving water. If you're not doing it for yourself, do it for bees. And if you're not doing it for the bees, well, do it for your own love of honey and your wallet.

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