Image: Van Engelsdorp, et al./Bee Informed
Nearly one third of commercial honeybee colonies in the United States didn't survive winter, and we're almost to the point of not having enough bees to pollinate crops:
“We’re getting closer and closer to the point where we don’t have enough bees in this country to meet pollination demands,” said entomologist Dennis vanEngelstorp of the University of Maryland, who led the survey documenting the declines.
Beekeepers lost 31 percent of their colonies in late 2012 and early 2013, roughly double what’s considered acceptable attrition through natural causes. The losses are in keeping with rates documented since 2006, when beekeeper concerns prompted the first nationwide survey of honeybee health. Hopes raised by drop in rates of loss to 22 percent in 2011-2012 were wiped out by the new numbers.
The honeybee shortage nearly came to a head in March in California, when there were barely enough bees to pollinate the almond crop.
Had the weather not been ideal, the almonds would have gone unpollinated — a taste, as it were, of a future in which honeybee problems are not solved.
“If we want to grow fruits and nuts and berries, this is important,” said vanEngelstorp. “One in every three bites [of food consumed in the U.S.] is directly or indirectly pollinated by bees.”
Bees haven't adapted to the cold winters, and they do not over-winter well. It costs money to split hives, but the population will be at full strength by mid summer.
Regardless though, my Grandfather, a long-time beekeeper, dealt with something similar back in the '70s when they said the bees were dying off. It took a couple years and they all came back. Like everything in this world, it's a cycle.