Honeybee Colonies Experience 40 Percent Loss

Honeybees
In the last year, over two out of five honeybee colonies have died in America. Backyard beekeepers have experienced a 40 percent loss in their colonies since April 2014. A federal survey was taken and the largest amount of honeybee colonies that died occurred during the summer. Bees enjoy summer and all the flowers. This is the first time, on record, that more honeybees have died in the summer than in the winter. Dennis van Engelsdorp is from the University of Maryland, where he is an assistant professor of entomology.

The percentage of honeybee colonies lost is based on reports released May 13. This is the second highest rate of honeybees lost in nine years. Surveys are done yearly by a partnership for bees that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The survey was conducted by van Engelsdorp, who is also the director for the Bee Informed Partnership, who conducted the survey. This means the Earth’s ecosystems are not strong and healthy. It is easiest to judge how well the agro-ecosystems are doing via monitoring honeybees because they are the easiest to count.

One reason that honeybee colonies may be dying is because there are not as many undeveloped areas for bees to forage in the Midwest. In the spring, honeybees fertilize almond groves in California. Beekeepers take their bees back to the Midwest to make honey and pollinate flowers, which they sell. There is less ground that has been uncultivated, as farmers have been plowing more land for soybeans and corn because the price of these goods cost more.

Some states, such as Montana, have seen a decline in the amount of farmland set aside for conservation. It has seen a decline of 50 percent in the past seven years.

There is also an increase in the amount of harmful chemicals in beehives. A new class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, which research has shown to be playing a role in the deaths of honeybee colonies. However, van Engelsdorp is worried about chemicals, such as fungicides and a variety of insecticide, which are much more common.

There are tormenting bee parasites, called varroa mites, which are particularly vexing for backyard beekeepers. 60 percent of small-time beekeepers are not treating the honeybees for these mites. Over 6,100 beekeepers in the U.S. took the survey. Combined, the beekeepers had almost 400,000 colonies last year, which accounted for 15 percent of the total managed honeybee hives in the U.S.

When beekeepers lose hives, they split the colonies, so one colony would make two. Then, the beekeepers will purchase more queen bees so the colonies can sustain themselves. This has kept the total population of honeybees stable, but it is expensive and time-consuming. The loss of honeybees in the winter has improved in the past 10 years. The summer loss is the current concern and it is important that scientists gain an understanding as to what is happening. Pollination is essential to the ecosystem.

Tom Vilsack, secretary of U.S. Agriculture, said that the honeybee issue is about pesticides, pests, pathogens, and the diversity in the production of crops. It is about diet and the stress transportation causes, and there is not an easy answer.

There is an affliction, called Colony Collapse Disorder, that was diagnosed 10 years ago. It seemed to correspond with the doubling of the death rates of honeybees to 40 percent while mites and viruses were revived, according to the survey.

By Jeanette Smith

Sources:
InfoWars: Survey: More Than 40 Percent of Bee Hives Died in Past Year
Bloomberg: Bee Death Increase Seen in U.S. Survey Citing Mites, Viruses
Newsweek: U.S. Beekeepers Lose 40 Percent of Hives Over Past Year
Photo Courtesy of Mary Hightower’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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