Colony Collapse Disorder Not the Only Threat to Bees

Bloomberg columnist Justin Fox noted this week that, “Since hitting a low point in 2008, beset by the apocalyptic-sounding colony collapse disorder, America’s honeybees have been on the comeback trail. The number of colonies the U.S. Department of Agriculture counts is back up to almost 3 million, a level last seen in the early 1990s.

“Beekeepers in the U.S. continue to lose about 40% of their colonies annually, though, according to the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership. Its surveys, which date to 2006, don’t show a clear trend, but researchers have estimated that yearly losses before 2000 were much lower. Colony numbers can still rise in the face of such losses, because it takes only a couple of months to get one up and running, but all does not seem well with the bees.”

Mr. Fox stated that, “Most losses last winter were attributed not to colony collapse disorder but to more mundane causes such as starvation and pests. Honeybees seem to have become generally more vulnerable, with two oft-fingered culprits being the varroa mite, a parasite originally from Asia that first appeared in the U.S. in the late 1980s, and the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides by U.S. farmers starting in the late 1990s.”

The Bloomberg column stated that, “U.S. beekeepers reported revenue of $309.6m from pollination services in 2019, and $309.1 million from honey, a big change from past decades, when honey was the chief moneymaker.

“The USDA counted a record 5.9 million honeybee colonies in 1947, with that number falling to a little more than 3 million by the mid-1980s in the face of competition from imported honey and other sweeteners.”

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