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Rapid decline in honey bee population 'unsustainable,' experts say

Scorpio

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Rapid decline in honey bee population 'unsustainable,' experts say



5 hrs ago


© Rick Bowmer/AP Honeybees are shown on a frame at beekeeper Denise Hunsaker's apiary, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Salt Lake City.
Scientists are researching the potential consequences of the rapid decline of the honey bee population in the U.S. and how to mitigate its effects before it causes dire problems for crop management and production.

Honey bees are essential for the pollination of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and support about $20 billion worth of crop production in the U.S. annually, Matthew Mulica, senior project manager at the Keystone Policy Center, a consulting company that works with the Honey Bee Health Coalition, told ABC News.
Worldwide, honey bees and other pollinators help to produce about $170 billion in crops, Scott McArt, assistant professor of pollinator health at Cornell University, told ABC News.
"Honey bees are one of the most important agricultural commodities in the country," Geoff Williams, an assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University who also serves on the board of directors for the Bee Informed Partnership, told ABC News.
Over the past 15 years, bee colonies have been disappearing in what is known as the "colony collapse disorder," according to National Geographic. Some regions have seen losses of up to 90%, the publication reported.
© Alexandrumagurean/Getty Images Honeybees fly into the beehive bringing pollen. Data shows bee populations dwindling more and more each year
Between Oct. 1, 2018, and April 1, 2019, 37.7% of the managed honey bee population -- colonies kept by commercial beekeepers -- declined, 7 percentage points lower than the same time frame during the 2017-2018 winter, according to preliminary data from the Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit associated with the University of Maryland.
This past winter season represents the highest level of winter losses reported since the survey began in 2006, according to the report.
For the entire year -- April 1, 2018, to April 1, 2019 -- the managed bee population decreased by 40.7%, according to the report. The overall loss rate is around the average of what researchers and beekeepers have seen since 2006, McArt said.
"The main take-home from this is these are unsustainably high losses," McArt said, adding that researchers are not necessarily alarmed at the numbers because they've become "a little bit accustomed to these large loss rates."
The number of hives that survive the winter months is an overall indicator of bee health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Worker bees tend to live longest during the winter -- up to six months -- and just four weeks in the spring and summer, according to the American B
Managed colonies are shipped around the country to pollinate our food
Much of the produce seen in grocery stores -- watermelon, apples, peppers, cucumbers -- and nuts are pollinated by millions of European honey bees, or Apis mellifera, that travel across the country and are managed by commercial beekeepers, Mulica said.
These U.S. crops are produced with the help of 2.6 million colonies transported by 18-wheelers from place to place during peak flowering, McArt said. Of the $20 billion worth of U.S. crop production supported by pollinators, commercial honey bees are responsible for about half. Wild bees and other pollinators take care of the rest.
In February, about 60% of managed colonies head to California to begin almond production, McArt said.
The bees then travel to Florida to pollinate citrus crops before making their way up through the Southeast for the production of blueberries, cherries and other specialty fruits and vegetables, McArt said.
Apple pollination begins on the Northeast in June, and the last pollination event typically occurs in Maine in late June and early July for lowbush blueberries, McArt said.
The bees then go to a set location for several months, where they gather nectar and produce honey, McArt said.
© Joao Paulo Burini/Getty Images A honeybee is shown sitting on a yellow flower. Why the honey bee populations are declining
The largest contributor to the decline of bee health is the varroa mite, a parasite that invades hives and and spreads diseases, McArt said.
"This is really a big knockout blow to a lot of these hives," Mulica said.
Other reasons for the loss in population are loss of habitat and poor management practices, such as moving bees through the frigid Rocky Mountains during their winter journey to California, McArt said.
Incidental exposure to pesticides, pest and other diseases within the hive are also affecting the decrease of the population, Mulica said.
The populations of wild bees and other pollinators are suffering too, McArt said.
Food prices could rise if populations continue to decrease
While Williams does not believe honey bees are under threat of extinction, if their numbers continue to dwindle they could become a much more costly commodity for farmers, he said.
High bee losses year after year could lead to fewer beekeepers, and rental prices per bee colony could increase dramatically, Williams said.
This could also lead to steeper food prices, Mulica said.
"Really, what's at stake here is rising food costs and the ability of beekeepers to deliver healthy bees to the crops," Mulica said.
The first crop that may see a price increase with the decline of honey bees could be California almonds.
"We would not have almonds if it weren't for honey bees," McArt said.
The Golden State produces about 85% of the world's almonds, Mulica said. But the cost for renting bees for almond production has increased to nearly $300 per colony in some cases, Williams said, when contracts for other crops in other states run about $80 to $150 per colony, McArt said.
The cost of colony rentals has not yet affected consumer prices for almonds, Williams said, but those costs could "eventually trickle down."
© Rick Bowmer/AP Honeybees are shown on a frame at beekeeper Denise Hunsaker's apiary, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Salt Lake City. How to slow down the bee population decline
All of the reasons for the loss of the honey bee population derive from human error, McArt said.
"Every single one of these stresses that we put on pollinators is man-made," he said.
To save the bee population, researchers are looking into best management practices for beekeepers, such as how to treat hives for varroa mite, Mulica said.
They are also trying to figure out which pesticides could potentially be replaced with chemicals that are more bee-friendly, and what changes can be made to habitats to encourage more bees, such as planting wildflowers instead of green grass in the front yard and encouraging homeowners to mow their lawns less often, McArt said.
"I guess the question is, who's willing to do these things, and how can we be more efficient in doing them?" McArt said.
U.S. government to devote less resources to bee research
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it has suspended data collection for its Honey Bee Colonies survey due to budgetary reasons, just weeks after researchers reported that nearly 40% of managed honey bee colonies in the country were lost over the past winter.
"The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources," a July 1 statement from the USDA read.
The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service report is only one of three major bee surveys published each year, Mulica said. The Bee Informed Partnership and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also file reports that are widely used in the industry, he added.
Williams said it is "surprising" that the USDA made the decision to stop tracking the honey bee population, stating that it compounds the importance for independent studies to continue so scientists can understand the long-term trends of honey bees, not just for the sake of research but to allow policy makers to make sound decisions in the future.


https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/tech...sustainable-experts-say/ar-AAE4yhQ?li=BBnbfcL
 

stoli

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Varroa mites. Nasty little fks. They do allot of damage to bee colonys. Not to mention all the chemicals people apply on their lawns to control dandelion and clover....two of the honeybees favourites.
 

Lt Dan

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I let my grass grow to 4 inches this summer to allow clover to blossom for my bees. Lots of wild flowering weeds growing along the woods.
Bees do not take a lot of care, but they do need to be watched for those varroa mites, small hive beetles, and of course pesticide use around their area and on the garden. They can also contact other diseases, but not much can be done about those, burn the hive is usually what has to be done.
 

Pyramid

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For what it's worth, the most common honey bees in North America are of European, Asian, and African origin. They were brought to this continent to pollinate fruits, vegetables, fruit trees and produce honey of course with the European plants brought here by our ancestors. Our native bees have been decimated by Monsanto chemicals and have been out competed by nonnative bees that have fewer natural diseases and predators that would keep them in check.

Native Americans knew they were in deep trouble when Old-World honey bees started showing up, as it was a precursor to smallpox, measles, influenza etc. and other diseases that originated from Europe that they were not adapted to.
 

TAEZZAR

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Did we also have this scare about 10 years ago ?
 

gnome

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We planted a bunch of bee forages, so I have five types of bees in my backyard on any given day, plus the hummingbirds. No colony collapse here.

But I don't think people realize quite how much the global food supply depends on bees and just how quickly it could collapse.
A friend of mine ships a trailer of hives from Florida to California to pollinate the fruit orchards every year.

California produces about 80% of the world's commodity almond crop. A few years back because of the colony collapse, they couldn't get enough bees and the crop almost failed. Fortunately, a cold spell delayed flowering a few weeks, and they got the hives they needed.