Honeybee Deaths Stun Researchers: 40 Percent of Hives Disappeared Last Year

According to new data from the Bee Informed Partnership, bees are in trouble. Really big trouble. The group reports that a stunning 40 percent of honeybee hives died in the last year, marking the second-highest loss of hives on record.

“What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad thinkgs happening with our agro-ecosystems,” study co-author Keith Delaplane of the University of Georgia told the AP. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count." 

Colony collapse disorder—the mysterious condition that causes bees to become confused and abandon their hives before dying—has been pointed to as the leading cause of the bee decline by a number of experts, but it was not called out as the culprit in this case. The exact cause of the honeybee hive decline was not noted.

Bee researcher Dennis vanEngelsdorp called the situation “unheard of,” stating that commercial beekeepers “are now losing more colonies in the summertime compared to the winter.” It had long been the opposite, notes vanEngelsdorp, “We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony.”

But it seems the challenges facing the nation’s bee populations knows no season, an indication of a more severe, widespread issue that many experts believe is the result of excessive pesticide use, most notably neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides that has been banned in the EU over concerns of its impact on bees and other pollinators.

According to USDA data, honeybees add more than $15 billion in value to country’s fruit and vegetable crops each year.

“If losses continue at the 33 percent level, it could threaten the economic viability of the bee population industry, the department said in a statement. “Honey bees would not disappear entirely, but the cost of honey bee pollination services would rise, and those increased costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers through higher food costs.”Image: Paul Rollings

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