How much of a sting is the U.S. honeybee population feeling?
The National Resources Defense Council warns of a deadly crisis harming honeybees and their bee relatives — insects that pollinate our gardens and our crops. In fact, a survey by the Bee Informed Partnership shows 23 percent of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. were lost during the 2014-15 winter season.
However, critics like Henry I. Miller complain that the much-publicized “Beepocalypse” is a bunch of bunk. Miller, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a conservative think think, even goes so far as to brand the bee crisis “a complete fabrication.”
Honeybees, however, are a managed commercial resource used in agriculture. Beekeepers can create new colonies, which are not native to North America. A separate issue is the decline in the populations of wild native bees. There are about 3,600 species known in the U.S., and they are also under stress, according to recent surveys These wild bees play a important role in agriculture, but they also are responsible for pollinating millons of gardens across America, which has led to a movement toward planting bee-friendly lawns. See “How to Create a Bee Lawn to Help Pollinators” for details.
Bees in Peril?
To be sure, beekeepers have been reporting higher-than-normal colony die-offs in recent years. This phenomenon — called Colony Collapse Disorder and first recognized in 2006 — results in the disappearance of most of the worker bees from a colony. According to the University of Florida, a cause of the disorder hasn’t been nailed down, but contributing factors could include malnutrition, exposure to toxic chemicals, poor hive management, virus-carrying mites and genetic issues.=
Recently released figures are generating some positive buzz about honey bees, though, and are bolstering the arguments of Miller and other detractors. In 2014, honey production from U.S. producers with at least five colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. And the number of colonies actually climbed 4 percent from 2013 to 2014 to 2.74 million. That’s the highest colony count in 20 years.
“It’s not the bees that are in jeopardy. I believe we’ll always have bees,” Tim Tucker, president of the American Bee Federation, told the Mother Nature Network. “Unless things change, what’s in jeopardy is the commercial beekeeping industry.”
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