American Honeybees Are Doing Better In 2017

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Good news bee-lovers and people who like to eat fruit, vegetables, and nuts! The US bee population has increased in 2017, with the number of bees disappearing due to colony collapse disorder significantly smaller than it was in 2016.

According to a honeybee health survey from the US Department of Agriculture, the number of farmed bees in the United States increased by around 3 percent as of April 2017 compared to April 2016, bringing the total number of these pollinating insects to 2.89 million.

The report shows that the number of beehives that succumbed to colony collapse disorder decreased by about 27 percent in both quarters of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. So far, 119,180 colonies have been lost to the mysterious condition.

Colony collapse disorder is a curious and worrisome phenomenon where the majority of worker bees abandon the beehive. They leave behind the queen, immature bees, and nurse bees, as well as plenty of food, which adds to the mystery.

Researchers and beekeepers have yet to find a single cause for colony collapse disorder and many now consider it a consequence of multiple factors, such as pesticides or fungi. The disruption of beehives by moving them and poor bee husbandry might also play a role. However, very few bees seem to die in the hive, suggesting the cause is environmental rather than a pest.

Insecticides containing neonicotinoids have often been seen as a major player, with the US Environmental Protection Agency currently considering a ban on them, as well as several dozen more pesticides.

While colony collapse has taken the front pages, there are other scourges that threaten bees. Varroa mites are the most glaring example. These bloodsucking parasites have affected 42 percent of commercial hives between April and June 2017. This has improved compared to the same months in 2016, where the number was around 53 percent.

In addition, 13 percent of colonies were directly affected by pesticides, 11.6 percent by other types of mites or pests, and 4.3 percent by diseases during the April to June 2017 timeframe. The remaining 6.6 percent of hives were affected by bad weather, bad foraging, and other factors.

Bees play a crucial role in the pollination of trees and plants that we depend on. Safeguarding their wellbeing is in everybody’s interest.  

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