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A Third of the Nation’s Honeybee Colonies Died Last Year


America’s beekeepers watched as a third of the country’s honeybee colonies were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply.

The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey’s previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation’s colonies died.

“I would stop short of calling this ‘good’ news,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. “Colony loss of more than 30% over the entire year is high. It’s hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses.”

The research, published Thursday, is the work of the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership and the Apiary Inspectors of America.

The death of a colony doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of bees, explains vanEngelsdorp, a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. A beekeeper can salvage a dead colony, but doing so comes at labor and productivity costs.

That causes beekeepers to charge farmers more for pollinating crops and creates a scarcity of bees available for pollination. It’s a trend that threatens beekeepers trying to make a living and could lead to a drop-off in fruits and nuts reliant on pollination, vanEngelsdor said.

One in every three bites of food, van Engelsdorp said, is directly or indirectly pollinated by honeybees, who pollinate about $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year. Almonds, for instance, are completely reliant on honeybee  pollination.

“Keeping bees healthy is really essential in order to meet that demand,” said vanEngelsdorp. He said there are concerns it won’t.

So what’s killing the honeybees? Parasites, diseases, poor nutrition, and pesticides among many others. The chief killer is the varroa mite, a “lethal parasite,” which researchers said spreads among colonies.

“This is a complex problem,” said Maryland graduate student Kelly Kulhanek, who assisted with the study. “Lower losses are a great start, but it’s important to remember that 33% is still much higher than beekeepers deem acceptable. There is still much work to do.”

vanEngelsdorp said people can do their part to save bee colonies by buying honey from a local beekeeper, becoming a beekeeper, avoiding using pesticides in your yard and making room for pollinators, such as honeybees, in your yard.

“Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, who led data collection on the project. “To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter.”

USA Today

34 Comments on "A Third of the Nation’s Honeybee Colonies Died Last Year"

  1. Apneaman on Sat, 27th May 2017 8:07 pm 

    Yabut they were the weak, homeless and drug addicted Bees – da Bee useless eaters, so by the laws of neoliberal capitalism they deserved to die. They once had good honeycomb manufacturing jobs, but the overlords shipped half of those jobs over seas (lower bee wages) and automated the rest. We don’t need you anymore so fuck off and die.

  2. Go Speed Racer on Sat, 27th May 2017 9:35 pm 

    Two more things, that we don’t need anymore.
    Bees, and polar ice.

    Add that to some other things we don’t
    need anymore, like salmon, internet freedom,
    oxygen, jobs.

    At least we don’t have that bitch Hillary in
    the white house. that was also something we don’t need.

  3. Midnight Oil on Sat, 27th May 2017 11:02 pm 

    Kept Italian honeybees in Florida some 25 years ago, no problem besides wax moths.
    See a few around now a days, so there must be some hives hanging on.
    Had friends try to start hives, but they died out. Too many problems now to deal with, not much fun.

  4. deadlykillerbeaz on Sat, 27th May 2017 11:45 pm 

    You can always visit the bee store and buy more bees.

    Out with the old, in with the new

    As one queen’s reign is coming to an end, she lays eggs into their own individual queen cells. These potential queen larvae are fed royal jelly – the protein secretion from the heads of young worker bees. After about eight days, the queen bee larvae develop into pupae, and the worker bees cap off their shells with beeswax. After about 15 more days, a queen bee emerges by chewing a hole in the shell. After doing that, her first priority is to destroy any other potential queen bees. She slashes open their shells with her stinger or calls them into battle. After destroying the other potential queen bees, the new queen seeks to eliminate the old queen if she is still present in the colony. Usually the old queen will have died or left the colony already, but in the unlikely event that she is still there, there would be a fight to the death.

    You see bee boxes on pasture land that is away from fields with crops. Got to avoid crop sprayers.

    The beekeeper returns every year and drops off boxes of bees to the farmyard each year for ten years now.

    Always receive three gallons of honey along with barbecue sauce at the end of each growing season.

    Get within 75 feet of the hives and in the flight paths, you are going to be stung.

    The bees are busy as bees and don’t like being bothered.

    If you want zucchini, you need bees around.

    Hillary is out of the picture, a useless, worthless old hag, a bitch from hell.

    Nobody wants her around at all. Good riddance.

  5. makati1 on Sun, 28th May 2017 1:11 am 

    So go the bees. So go humans.

  6. DerHundistlos on Sun, 28th May 2017 2:17 am 

    The bee’s immune systems are crashing due to a perfect storm of pollution, habitat loss, and parasites (varroa mite). We successfully enforced a quarantine until the Reagan administration significantly reduced the number of inspection officers at points of entry into the US arguing “too many regulations are hurting business”. So in the late 1980’s an infested hive from Brazil was successfully smuggled into Florida and from Florida the parasite spread north. Thankfully, native pollinators like bumblebees are not nearly as suscptabile to varroa infection. It should also be noted that honey bees are not native to the America’s. Honey bees were introduced by European settlers.

    The same plague is responsible for killing millions and millions of bats, and amphibians, etc.

    These are the canaries in the coal mine. In nature, everything works until the final straw that breaks the camels back arrives. Everything is fine until one day when the entire ecosystem implodes.

  7. DerHundistlos on Sun, 28th May 2017 2:32 am 

    Further to my message above, the perfect storm responsible for colony collapse is additionally due to pesticides and the spread of disease that occurs when beekeepers transport hives to concentrated areas of the country where farmers pay for pollination services. A further issue is the honey bees diet is from a single source or crop, which logically can’t be healthy.

  8. Davy on Sun, 28th May 2017 4:51 am 

    “Get within 75 feet of the hives and in the flight paths, you are going to be stung.”

    I can mow grass right by my bee hives and not get stung. The only time they get irate is when we check the inside of the hive and even then they are sometimes not bad.

    I lost one of my two hives last year and the other was so reduced that we went ahead and replaced it. The same was true everywhere around here. Most bee keepers lost bees and more than normal. The weather was off for bees. We have the normal bee problems (minus the chems) but lately the weather changes are affecting the bees. Climate change and bees a canary in a coal mine.

  9. Davy on Sun, 28th May 2017 5:09 am 

    Speaking of climate change, I made it through a likely small F1 tornado last night. We lost 7 huge oaks and branches are down everywhere. There was no significant damage to the cabin and barns. The animals were scared shitless. No neighbors died. Right now I am enjoying my renewable power and I have a welder/generator for the heavy loads like the well and electric stove.

    This year I have seen the difference in the weather more than normal. The storms are stronger and we have been getting more rain. We hardly had a winter and we have yet to have the hot weather we normally get this time of year. It is like the seasons are altered. I am expecting it to go from cool and lush to hot dry and parched like a light switch. Weather patterns are lengthening and remaining fixed making flooding and drought more numerous. Last year we had some hot and humid that was dangerous to work in. I am expecting this again and I am planning on this for the future. I will adapt best I can. I expect to see more destructive weather like last night as the new normal.

  10. twocats on Sun, 28th May 2017 7:16 am 

    agreed Davy, northeast ohio has also been jumbled. and weather patterns are lingering. lazy jet stream? shifting arctic circle?

    won’t take too many events like this to raise food prices.

  11. Sissyfuss on Sun, 28th May 2017 10:22 am 

    That last 3 springs have been silent at my abode. There is a paucity of bees of all species whereas 10 years ago I was constantly being harassed. And again this year I see no fruit on any of my apple and pear trees forming, the new normal. Our weather here gets more schizoid and Dr Francis’ research on the meandering jet stream ties in nicely with that. Yes, this is anecdotal evidence I proffer but is more substantial than anything you will see on the corporate MSM. Funny that when I type in apple the autocorrect changes it to capital A. It is taught to always replace the natural with the anthropic.

  12. onlooker on Sun, 28th May 2017 10:28 am 

    Sissy, most of us here believe anecdotal much more than we believe Media. Another sign of the times

  13. bobinget on Sun, 28th May 2017 11:19 am 

    My bee keeper, pollinator got creative a few years back and now (mostly) raises ‘nukes’ or starter hives.
    Almost every year he shows up with a new piece of equipment.

    We American’s are super flexible.

    Look what the comedy ‘industry’ did with a Trump Presidency… But then, DJT just keeps on giving.

  14. ALCIADA-MOLE on Sun, 28th May 2017 11:20 am 

    There was once plenty of free food but 4 billions of chestnut trees died due to stress induced by human

  15. Northwest Resident on Sun, 28th May 2017 12:50 pm 

    One third? That’s all? According to one of my beekeeping books written by a professor who has studied bees his entire career, one HALF of all wild bee colonies die off every year, naturally. Bees have many enemies, weather variations being a prime one. Varroa mites of course have wreaked havoc, but just like in Russia and China where the varroa mite comes from, bees in America and in Europe — the survivors — are developing resistance to those invaders. There are a lot of things to worry about these days, but one third of bee colonies dying around the world isn’t one of them IMO.

  16. GregT on Sun, 28th May 2017 1:29 pm 

    Haven’t seen a single honey bee so far this year. Not one.

    As mentioned multiple times before, this last winter was completely abnormal. I’ve never seen so much snow at such low elevations in my entire lifetime.

    Record rainfall this April, and as of one week ago, temperatures jumped 12ºC overnight. We are expecting temperatures in the 30s beginning tomorrow. Hot and dry.

    Thankfully we have a huge snowpack in the mountains to keep the rivers from drying up like they did the summer before last.

    Nothing normal about the weather here anymore. FUBAR.

  17. DerHundistlos on Sun, 28th May 2017 4:45 pm 


    1/3 of the hives died due to Colony Collapse Disorder, not natural causes.

    Do you have proof that honey bees are becoming resistant to varroa mites or are you speculating? This is the first time I have heard this so I am suspect.

  18. Apneaman on Sun, 28th May 2017 6:32 pm 

    DerHundistlos, rockman is a disciple of the “just world” religion and believes those Bee’s died due to lack of personal responsibility…..oh and because the consumers wanted it too.

  19. _______________________________ on Sun, 28th May 2017 8:18 pm 

    Fuck domesticated bees

  20. Boat on Sun, 28th May 2017 8:45 pm 

    I used a q-tip to pollinate the squash. Just lightly dig around all female and male blooms. Think tech.

  21. DMyers on Sun, 28th May 2017 8:54 pm 

    DerHundistlos, ain’t no Rockman here. Seems you were addressing Northwest Resident.

    NWR can and will speak for himself, but I would like to say this. NWR is assuming a process of evolution. Those that survive are resistant. If they are able to reproduce, their offspring will be resistant. I believe that was the implication, and it is valid, and it is not a new idea.

    I won’t deny, there may be a little hopeful thinking embedded in there somewhere, but this seems to be a rare case where Nature is on our side.

  22. Northwest Resident on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:02 pm 

    “Do you have proof that honey bees are becoming resistant to varroa mites or are you speculating?”

    I’m a beekeeper with going on 3 years of experience and I can tell you all about varroa mites, having researched, read, talked with lifelong experienced beekeepers and lost just one hive to varroa mites myself.

    Absolutely, they are breeding bees that are resistant if not totally immune to varroa mites — the “immunity” being that the bees have adapted hygienic behavior to detect, remove and kill the varroa mites.

    Last year I had three hives — two that I never had to treat for varroa mites because I had the specially bred “varroa resistant” queens that produced offspring with the desired hygienic behavior. The other hive did not have a specially bred queen. It died due to varroa infestation. The other two hives — no mites whatsoever. Examining the baseboard with a magnifying glass, I could see where the bees had bitten the varroa mites — cut right through them — and dumped the dead bodies into one corner of the hive along with a few wax moth larvae.

    The varroa mites came from China/Russia. So, how is it that they still have bees in China and Russia? Answer: those bees developed hygienic behavior that made them more or less immune to varroa mites. In America, the bee breeders are crossing Italian and other bee strains with the Russian bees, and that’s where a lot of the varroa resistance comes from.

    BTW: Whoever wrote “Fuck domesticated bees” above is an absolute moron. I got five gallons of top-grade honey from my domesticated bees last year. What’s not to like?

  23. Anonymouse on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:13 pm 

    Three whole years as a part-time hobbyist, impressive. Almost as impressive as your ability to completely neglect to mention your favorite, globalist agro-chem corporations role in killing off bees.

  24. Apneaman on Sun, 28th May 2017 9:57 pm 

    Boat, ya your hand pollinating is brand spanking new technology.Invented by capitalism, I assume.

    An Assyrian relief carving from 870 B.C. showing artificial pollination of date palms.

    “What is Plant Breeding?

    For several thousand years, farmers have been altering the genetic makeup of the crops they grow. Human selection for features such as faster growth, larger seeds or sweeter fruits has dramatically changed domesticated plant species compared to their wild relatives. Remarkably, many of our modern crops were developed by people who lacked an understanding of the scientific basis of plant breeding.”

    Science gave it a bump.

  25. DMyers on Sun, 28th May 2017 10:35 pm 

    A’Mouse, I don’t detect a malicious cover-up coming from NWR here. He’s describing his own experience. If Glyphosate was involved, it was either negligible or undetectable with available equipment.

    It strikes me also, that more has not been said about the role of Glyphosate. I have read it, too, has been linked to bee mortality. Glyphosate is the poison of the day. Kills bees and humans along with weeds. It’s also involved in a plot to develop resistance to itself. When you eat a plant resistant to Glyphosate, you get not only Glyphosate but also a plant completely resistant to it. That ain’t the kind of stuff Grandma ate, my friends.

  26. DerHundistlos on Sun, 28th May 2017 11:37 pm 


    I appreciate the anecdotal information, but do you have access to any scientific studies that substantiate your observations?

    It’s way too early to declare victory against the varroa mite. We continue to lose hives to this mite. I don’t know of a single beekeeper proclaiming the end to the mite.

    I understand the fuck the domesticated bee rationale. Domesticated bees are a non-native species. We should be far more concerned with the loss of native pollinators, but it’s the species that generates $$$$$$ that most people worry about. It’s the native pollinators that allow the ecosystem to flourish.

  27. DerHundistlos on Sun, 28th May 2017 11:44 pm 

    This article just published in Entomology Today…and thus my reservations.


  28. GregT on Mon, 29th May 2017 12:13 am 

    “I used a q-tip to pollinate the squash. …….Think tech.”

    Back so soon Kevin? Nothing better to do with your life than to constantly broadcast how stupid you are?

  29. Anonymouse on Mon, 29th May 2017 2:01 am 

    No greg, no he does not. There is no cure for retard.

  30. Apneaman on Mon, 29th May 2017 10:20 am 

    Wildfires on the rise due to drought and climate change

    More than 100M Americans live in or near forests and grasslands that can erupt in flames. Steve Inskeep reports on fighting wildfires, which cost federal agencies almost $2B last year

  31. Kenz300 on Mon, 29th May 2017 1:42 pm 

    And yet we continue to poison the environment with pesticides.

    Short term thinking for profits by huge corporations.

    The public needs to stand up to corporations that are harming our environment.

  32. DerHundistlos on Tue, 30th May 2017 6:00 pm 


    Did you read in the literature that honey bees of northern Kenya display a natural resistance to varroa destructor?

  33. Northwest Resident on Wed, 31st May 2017 1:05 am 

    DerHundistlos — Lucky I saw your comment. I check in here once or twice a day. But no, I never read about northern Kenya bees. I have read and talked to a lot of people about other bee varroa mite resistant bee strains. There are a number of queen bee breeders here in the NW that have “survivor” queens for sale. I got mine from a breeder who collected swarms of wild bees (including queen) in the Olympic Mountains. These bees have survived varroa mites and all other kinds of bee ailments in this climate, all on their own. But the uncharacteristically cold weather last winter killed my bees — I didn’t insulate, my bad, lesson learned — so I had to order two more queens. The bees that the cold killed definitely didn’t have problems with varroa mites and I’m hopeful these two new queens will be just as good.

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