Here Are the Threats Honeybees Face—and What’s Helping Them Survive
In 2006, honeybees began to mysteriously disappear from their hives, with sometimes as much as 90 percent of the bees abruptly dying in what’s become known as colony collapse disorder. Since then, there has been a growing level of concern over the health of pollinators. The reason why is clear enough: Honeybees are integral to American agriculture, pollinating more than a third of the crops we grow. Take away honeybees, and we would be without many of the foods we eat.
The villain in this whodunit mystery is far more difficult to identify. In the years since CCD was first observed, honeybees have continued to die off at unsustainable rates; the average overwinter die-off rate is about 33 percent. But researchers and beekeepers are no longer seeing the kind of mass die-off that’s symptomatic of CCD. Instead, a heady combination of pests and pesticides—and other ag chemicals—is harming bee populations.
It’s not all bad news for the honeybees. This past winter the die-off rate dropped to roughly 23 percent. New farming practices and conservation work, including the $8 million in USDA incentives for pollinator habitat restoration in the Midwest that was announced today, could help make the country a safer place for bees.