The Latest Buzz on Honeybees

The numbers are in on the honeybee front –and the buzz is mixed. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, winter losses of managed honeybee colonies for 2014-2015 dropped for the second straight year to 23 percent, significantly lower than the winter loss average of 29 percent. Winter loss of many honeybee colonies is to be expected given the various stress factors. What is troubling researchers is that summer loss of colonies exceeded winter losses for the first time, driving up the annual loss total to 42 percent, up from 34 percent for 2013-2014. According to experts, summer loss of honeybee colonies used to be extremely rare.


Backyard beekeepers can often point to the Varroa mite as the culprit when colonies die off, but commercial keepers take much more aggressive measures to control the mites. The jury is still out on why more and more honeybees are dying.


One encouraging note is that colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been declining for several years. CCD is an old phenomenon that beekeepers used to call “dwindle.” It occurs when worker bees mysteriously flee the hive leaving behind the queen and food stores. The phenomenon was renamed CCD in 2006 following a sharp in-crease in the collapse of North American honeybee colonies. Suspects include new pesticides called neonicoti-noids, mite infestations, loss of habitat, genetic deficiencies –even cell phone signals. Researchers have not reached consensus on a single cause.


European honeybees are crucial to our survival because they pollinate many of our crops. While staple crops like wheat, corn and rice don’t depend on bee pollination, many of our fruits and nuts do. Due to increasing honeybee shortages, many farmers must now rent them to pollinate their crops, and the cost of doing so has recently risen by 20 percent.


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