Bee colony death numbers are continuing to climb. The Bee Informed Partnership released its latest survey last week, saying U.S. beekeepers lost 40 percent of their colonies last winter. That’s the largest number of overwintering hive losses since the survey began more than a decade ago.
The total annual loss in 2018 was estimated to be slightly above average. An NPR article says the survey included responses from 4,700 beekeepers who managed approximately 320,000 hives. The USDA says pollinators like honeybees are directly responsible for one of every three bites of food that people consume. Most of the pollinators are domesticated honeybees and they’re essential for many different types of flowering crops.
Wild insects can’t always be counted on to pollinate hundreds of acres of crops, so fruit and nut growers will use commercial honeybee colonies instead. Studies have shown that bee decline has multiple causes. Decreasing crop diversity, poor beekeeping habits, as well as a loss of habitat are just some of the reasons given for bee numbers dropping. Pesticides have been shown to weaken bee immune systems.
Varroa mites are the number one concern of beekeepers in the wintertime because the tools beekeepers use to control the mites aren’t as effective as they have been in the past.