Bee Afraid, Bee Very Afraid: Commercial Honeybee Population Collapsed Last Winter

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.”


This is not the sort of story most Americans do well with. There's not a single cause of the problem and it's going to be perceived by some as being a "green" issue. It also involves science. Then, when there isn't enough of a particular food, people will finally react.
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No Shirt Shylock! I tied to buy bulk local honey for mead last winter. None to be had. This has been going on for half a decade and is very scary.
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Actually last year I seen more honey bees than I had the past 4 years total. This spring, so far, I have seen a good many. So they might not be doing well in some areas, but they are doing better in others.

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.
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I work for a beekeeper. He had bees that were being killed by pesticide.

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.
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