Why are bees disappearing

At first glance it might seem like the dwindling population of bees is a good thing, especially for those who love the outdoors. However, upon closer inspection of bee hives across the nation, the rapidly shrinking bee population is severely threatening the pollination of commercial crops.

The problem has first noticed by beekeepers who have found whole hives abandoned by adult bees, leaving food and bee larvae behind. There are absolutely no clues left as to why the bees left, and it seems as if they vanished over night. These particular hives, as well as other hives which have reported disappearances, involve one specific type of bee. The European honeybee, or apis mellifera is what’s at risk. Other types of bees, including bumblebees and any of the other 1,500 species of bee which can be found in the United States are not in danger, but this does not mean our crops are not. These bees are simply no replacement for the honeybee, since it is the nation’s prominent workhorse bee when it comes to pollination and handling the work to create large commercial crops like apples, blueberries, almonds, cranberries, and other melon crops.

There are several speculations as to what has caused the collapse in honeybee population, ranging from pathogens, deadly mites, a lack of diversity in bees, and perhaps even the widespread use of pesticide could be killing them. While beekeepers have always expected some loss in their hives, this number climbed from a small 5%-15% to an alarming 35% loss in the 1990s. This is when a deadly might known as Varroa spread rapidly through many bee populations. Now, this same thing is happening again, though many hives are reporting near 80% losses, which is a staggering number. The problem has become very severe, but it hasn’t affected the marketplace yet. Currently, there is no harvest being done on honey, so the price hasn’t been tremendously affected. However, The National Honey Board does acknowledge that there is a problem, and they’re actively working to seek an answer. Because much speculation rests on the shoulders of the Varroa mite, there are many teams of researchers who are dedicating time and money to discover just how it affects honeybee populations so drastically. The might was first discovered in 1987 and it acts as an immune system weakener, usually killing off entire bee colonies within the first year or so after it invades. Many beekeepers are using pesticides in a hope to control the mites, but researchers are now looking for ways to breed honeybees which are resistant to the effects of the mite.

Scientists who spoke at a recent conference concerning the dwindling honeybee population recounted the same thing happening in the 1960s, and there was no cure found for it then. They are hoping with today’s advanced genetics and modern science, a way can be found which will prevent these bees from succumbing to the mite, and if it cannot be prevented, perhaps it can be contained.