The Bee Informed Partnership released new data that draws an alarm signal to the declining honeybee population in the United States.
The Bee Informed Partnership brings together universities and research laboratories in an effort to analyze the honeybee population and the threats it is being exposed to. Understandably, the effort is most welcome taking into consideration the economical importance underpinned by honeybees. Beekeepers and farmers are increasingly reporting their concerns regarding the decline of U.S. honeybee population.
In the survey conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, a staggering number of over 5,000 beekeepers reported that 42.1 percent of colonies were lost during April 2014 and April 2015. It is a bewildering increase from the 34.2 percent reported for the previous year and a record second-highest loss since 2010.
What is most inexplicable are the summer hikes in death rates of the honeybee population. It is usually expected that it will decrease during winter periods, yet summer remains a mystery. The survey revealed little information to the causes of summer deaths or losses overall. However, approximately one quarter of honeybee colonies was lost during the winter period, with an 18.7 percent considered within normal rates.
At this point, commercial beekeepers are looking for answers as to what may have cause the spike in summer death rates. By renting the hives to farmer, commercial beekeepers are helping the pollination natural process which in turn is upholding an entire economical chain. Pollination services alone are estimated at almost 15 billion dollars per year, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council. A steeper decline in the honeybee colonies would lead to spiking prices of U.S.- grown produce.
So far, scientists are taking into account three factors to explaining the high summer death rates recorded last summer. Increasing poor nutrition of the honeybee population due to land exploitation for agricultural purposes in the detriment of wildflowers. At the same time, a parasite that causes harm which is known as the varroa mite. And a much debated factor, pesticides.
In recent years pesticides have been under the scrutiny of the public and the scientific community. Developed to rid crops of parasites, their effect on bee population, as well as on humans is widely debated. Neonicotinoids, used on major crops in the United States are believed to have adverse effects. In the European Union, the European Commission already banned three pesticides due to risks they present for bee populations and is still debating the overall use of pesticides whatsoever.
In what concerns the honeybee population of the United States, risks are still to be assessed and solutions to be found. In the survey by Bee Informed Partnership, it was reported that Oklahoma, Indiana and Iowa were the most affected states with more than 61 percent losses of beehives. At the other end, Oregon reported the lowest level of colony loss, established at only 25.2 percent.
Image Source: National Geographic