When we first started this website we already had a deep passion for the honeybee, its importance to the Earth and humans, and beekeeping. Our passion and the deep-belief that bees are THE keystone species has only grown.
I’m not sure I can actually convey in this article how simple this is. I’m going to try, though. If you’re just a little bit like me, then you only need two statistical facts in order to get you to read on. Here goes.
Bees are Dying and Bees Feed the World
Fact 1: Eye-Opening
Data released in June of 2019 showed that beekeepers in the United States suffered higher than the average loss in bee colonies compared to 2018 to the tune of 41%!
This data is based on a survey, which started in 2006, of all US beekeepers. Loss reports have been climbing at an alarming rate over the last decade, and 41% in 2018 is 9 points higher than the average, previous 13 years. It is commonly referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder.
Summary: Honeybees are in decline. Drastically.
Fact 2: This blows my mind!
According to the United States Department of Agriculture…(ready for this?), …one in three bites of food that goes into an American’s mouth can be traced back to honeybees.
Bees pollinate about $15 billion worth of crops that American’s use as food (import or export) every year. Globally, according to the USDA, that number is somewhere between $235 BILLION and $577 billion.
Summary: About 84% of all commercially grown crops are insect-pollinated.
If we don’t have the bees to pollinate 84% of the food crops across the world, then the world will die.
If that seems dramatic to you, then please take a look at these organization’s reporting the same thing:
Okay, call me dramatic and excuse my language, but…That’s some pretty serious shhtuff, right there!
And I don’t want to sound like a recruiting poster, but we need you (to start beekeeping)!
The Bee Informed Project, a non-profit US organization, has been taking the sort of polls from the backyard and commercial beekeepers in the US. Of the 320, 000 US, managed honeybee colonies, 4,700 answer this latest survey. They account for 12% of the US total. You can only ASSUME that the numbers are consistent throughout the country. This isn’t a regional thing (click to check out the loss map), either. Look at some of these numbers for Total Winter Colony Loss 2018/2019
- Nevada: 65.5%
- Iowa: 61.84%
- Louisiana: 62.83%
There’s more bad news, though! Since beginning the survey, in 2006, the number of managed bee colonies in the United States keeps going down!
That’s right. At exactly the precise time we need more bee colonies managed and thriving, we’re losing them at an alarming rate. Per Bee Informed Project, in 2013 the US was nearing 1,000,000 managed bee colonies while in 2018 that number dropped to 320,000.
Number of Managed Bee Colonies in the US on the Decline Year
|Year||Total Managed Colonies|
It’s hard to maintain a passion for beekeeping or the business of beekeeping that relies upon it when your colonies are consistently failing, and there really isn’t a reason to put your thumb on.
Since the colony loss trend started, scientists have been trying to figure out what’s causing it. And the truth is that we’re not that much closer to pinpointing any one thing. If it turns out to be a combination of factors, and we can’t fix all of them or have no control over some, the question will need to be:
Which factors (or combination of factors) can humans affect in order to have a positive effect (if not a reversing effect) on the honeybee colony loss problem?
And that’s exactly what’s happening. According to smart people, who have been studying Colony Collapse Disorder across the US for many years: There’s not one thing that’s affecting the colonies but rather a mixture of things. This is a great read, and if you read through, or skim through, the entirety, you’ll notice that last yellow box on the very bottom…left-hand margin: “Finding Solutions means realizing that there is a problem.”
But, all that being said, there are some very big culprits when it comes to threats to the honeybee’s survival.
Biggest Threats to the Honeybees
Widespread Use of Pesticides in Industrial Agriculture
Almost 33% of hives tested in North America contained some sort of synthetic pesticide. And, leave it to humans to really mess things up; one of those found is a type of insecticide called “neonicotinoids” (here forth know in this article as bee poison created by humans), which actually scrambles a bee’s brain and messes with their memory and navigation. WTF!
And where is all that neonicotinoid used? On crop seeds of canola (rapeseed), which, of course, many honeybees depend on for pollen to support their colonies.
A parasite named Varroa destructor (I mean, it’s right in the name how bad this thing is!) is another threat that is running rampant. And, what’s worse, the varroa issue is of a particular problem to those hives that have already been kicked by pesticide exposure because it weakens their immune systems.
So, what does the varroa do? Well, varroa mites suck the blood of bees while at the same time transmitting a virus to the honeybee that deforms their wings.
Varroa mites have spread all over the world after an accidental exposure in the late 1980s from Asiatic Bees. Sure, there are some miticides that beekeepers can use to defend their bee colonies from varroa mites, but they don’t always work, leaving keepers frustrated and bees in danger.
Diet and Food
Okay, so the problem with the diet isn’t something that I’m buying. There are some claims that the bees themselves are huge junk food eaters with their intake consisting of forms of sugar and corn syrup as their staple. But…c’mon…bees have been eating that diet for probably millions of years. I don’t buy that.
No, I think the problem lies in the variety of flowers (thus the diet choices that bees have) as an issue. Due to suburban development and other types of farming, the types of flora available to bees have changed drastically over millions of years, leaving the only food available that is around. So, it would seem there is a dietary deficiency due to availability and not the bee’s choice of food. The honeybee is simply just trying to survive on what is available.
I hope you can understand how important the bees are to the world and to humans. They have always played a pivotal role in balancing the world’s systems. I’m sure you can understand our passion in it after reading how we feel above.
It’s important that we start to inform many more people of the bee’s importance and hopefully start motivating a whole new generation of the population to take up beekeeping. Even if it’s only a backyard beekeeping foray that proves successful with a fruitful colony, then you’d be doing so much more than you may think.
Besides this paramount importance beekeeping has other great benefits.
- It educates young ones and more experienced alike.
- It brings you closer to the nature that we are quickly losing to urban and industrial build-up.
- You could reap great honey!
Raise Bees. Know Bees. Bee Cool. Save the Earth.