Honey Bee Health
Humans rely on honey bees for diverse and more affordable food crops. U.S. farmers pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year for pollination services that will in turn add billions in value to crop production. Honey bees also produce well over 100 Million pounds of honey in the U.S. each year along with other hive products like beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, and pollen.
Unfortunately, all bees are facing serious health and habitat threats. For honey bees, this regularly results in high annual colony losses, making it increasingly difficult for beekeepers to provide pollination for crops and run sustainable businesses.
40% of Honey Bee Colonies in the US Die Each Year
Following the alarm of Colony Collapse Disorder, systematic data was gathered by the Bee Informed Partnership and the scientific and beekeeping community to document the level of colony mortalities (or losses), with the assumption that winter was the main period of intense mortality events for colonies. When beekeepers said they were losing colonies sometimes to a similar extent in the summer, summer losses were measured separately, and summer and winter colony losses were combined to calculate total annual losses.
We Know What’s Killing Bees
There are many things that contribute to high annual colony losses. Often these factors are grouped into what is commonly known as the “Four P’s.” These represent the major honey bee health threats, and they are all connected. For example, Varroa mites not only weaken bees but also spread viruses, and without access to sufficient floral resources (food), they are less able to fight off parasites and diseases. Scientists are also looking at these factors through the lens of climate change, and how they respond to extreme environmental conditions and stressors.
What About CCD
(Colony Collapse Disorder)
In 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder devastated many beekeepers and honey bee colonies across the US.
Colony Collapse Disorder is a syndrome characterized by some very specific symptoms: the majority of worker bees in a hive disappear and leave behind a laying queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. It’s as if a booming metropolis suddenly emptied its working population. As a result, the hive dies.
Scientists still don’t know for sure what causes Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and it is infrequently seen today. Even though CCD is not at the forefront of honey bee health concerns today, high annual losses related to the “4p’s”listed above persist, and are often mis-attributed to CCD in the media.