The news is pretty grim, I’m afraid. Beekeepers across the United States lost an estimated 44% of their honey bee colonies during the 2015-2016 season (from April-April). About 15% of losses are considered sustainable. Total losses were the second highest year recorded. Summer rate losses were high and rivaled winter loss rates for the second year. An easy-to-read graph of the losses, can be found here.
We’re now in the second year of high rates of summer loss, which is cause for serious concern, said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “Some winter losses are normal and expected. But the fact that beekeepers are losing bees in the summer, when bees should be at their healthiest, is quite alarming.”
More than 5,700 beekeepers from 48 states responded to this year’s survey. These beekeepers are responsible for about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey bee colonies. Bee Informed Partnership conducted the survey. They receive most of their funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Why are the honey bees dying?
A natural question to ask when you hear the bad news. Bee Informed Partnership provided an analysis of the situation. While they do admit that many factors are contributing to colony losses, they declared that a “clear culprit” is the varroa mite, a parasite for the honey bees. In my opinion, there is so much to be said about why the bees are dying–too much to include here–so look for an upcoming post here at GGB!
What do we do?
My advice is this. We need to stop using chemicals in our own environments, whether we have just a few containers or acres of land. We need to offer high-quality food for pollinators to eat. And we need to continue pressure on major corporations to stop using neonicotinoids and other chemicals that prove hazardous to bees. Support organic farmers and organic beekeepers. Are you with me? Your actions make a difference. I shudder to imagine a world without the honey bee.