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Bee Shortage Threatens California’s Crops

A tiny pest is threatening California's community of honey bees and therefore its crops which could affect the harvest of some of America's favorite fruits.

There is a shortage of bees in this California farming community. Bees are especially important to almond orchards because they go from flower to flower, pollinating the blossoms that will grow into almonds.

Jim Huddleson, an almond grower, says without bees, "Very little crop, just a little bit from the wind maybe a very small crop if any."

The problem--thousands of bee colonies are under attack from a parasitic mite.

"Actually, it is about the size of a head of a pin that actually attaches itself to the body of a bee and essentially sucks life out of it," said Orin Johnson, a California beekeeper.

Beekeepers, like Orin Johnson rent hives and put them in the almond orchards. When the bees are finished pollinating the almond blossoms, the hives will be moved to cherry groves, apple orchards and melon patches. The bee shortage means farmers are paying much more per hive, if they can find any. Beekeepers have to bring in hives from Florida, on the other side of the country, and even as far away as Australia.

But Orin Johnson is doing everything he can to keep his bees healthy, including sticking his bare hand into the hive to check on the bees' health.

"That is why some people say beekpers are nuts. Grown men playing with insects," says Mr. Johnson.

But for many farmers, the bee shortage is no laughing matter as they struggle to save their crops.