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Why are Honey Bees Dying

Updated on February 10, 2015
Honey bee population decline
Honey bee population decline

Why are Honey Bees so Important

Are you aware that honey bees worldwide are dying from Colony Collapse Disorder, an affliction that could have global ramifications. If you've been following recent environmental news in the last half decade, you're aware that honey bees in Europe and the United States are undergoing a massive decline in hive population, at an increasingly alarming rate. For those who think it doesn't sound like such a big deal, they should think again.

They are crucial for pollinating plants that produce nearly 30% of food supplies in the U.S. Honey bees disappearing in the hundreds of millions, possibly billions have already and will continue to produce significant impact on people and our environment. In the U.S. alone, the bees that are responsible for pollinating over $30 billion in crops have vanished for a multitude of suspected and/or confirmed reasons.

The U.S. government stated "Over the last five years, honey bee populations have been dying at an economically unsustainable rate". They are, for the time being are not listed as endangered, but they are very well, being overwhelmingly threatened. For scientist, it has been a baffling dilemma to successfully get ahead of the causes for the mass death of honey bees.

Honey bee pollinating crops
Honey bee pollinating crops

Food Crops Pollinated by Honey Bees

Aside from creating Honey, the only food produced by an insect that humans consume willingly, they also pollinate a wide array of plants and flowers. There are ramifications of the ongoing plight of bees and how it effects us. Here's just a few notable foods humans stand to lose in substantial quantities if they continue dying.

Alfalfa, Almonds, Apples, Apricot, Blackberry, Blueberry, Bok Choy, Brazil Nuts, Cherry, Clovers, Cucumbers, Grapes, Mangoes, Muskmelon, Nectarine, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Persimmon, native Plum, Prunes, Pumpkin, Raspberry, Squash, Sunflower, Tamarind, Tomatoes, Trefoil, Watermelon and Vanilla.

This is just some of what we'd be missing, production wise. Here's a more comprehensive list of crop plants that are pollinated by bees.

Reasons Why Honey Bees are Disappearing

Beekeepers from all over the world have been reporting worker bees leaving their colonies and instead of returning back to the hive, they simply just vanish. An inability to maintain a hive due to a great number of bees being lost, leads to the eventual collapse of the colony. One of main suspected cause for the mass deaths have been coined "colony collapse disorder", or CCD for short.

Researchers and scientist have gone to painstaking lengths to pinpoint the catalyst for CCD, which has been accounted for over ten million beehives that have been destroyed in the last seven years, worth well over $2 billion. But recently, scientists from the University of Maryland have identified a cocktail of fungicides and pesticides that are contaminating pollen that the bees collect to feed their entire colony.

However, this is only one factor that attributes to honey bees disappearing worldwide. Other variables in the decimation of colonies include:

  • Nutritional imbalance due to certain aspects of climate change.
  • The possibility of a mutated virus affecting their health.
  • Stress stemming from changes in weather.
  • Stress from confinement and complications in transportation.

Toxic pesticides killing honey bees
Toxic pesticides killing honey bees

Colony Collapse Disorder and Pesticides

Beekeepers, scientists, and consumer groups believe the climbing rate of bee mortality is directly linked to the growing use of insecticides sold by agrochemical companies to increase yields in staple crops, such as corn. Companies like Monsanto Co, DuPont, Syngenta AG, Bayer AG have been busy spinning their own version of causality and scapegoating other causes for the rise of CCD.

An in-dept study conducted on May 9 by the Harvard School of Public Health found two widely used neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide, appeared to harm colonies during cold weather, especially over winter months. Yet these agrochemical companies put all their efforts not to address the problem, but spend their immense resources to dissuade the public of the devastating consequences of fiddling with nature.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) has approved yet another insecticide that is highly toxic and deadly to honey bees. With agrochemical conglomerates and special interest groups averting public opinion and the EPA failing to address the dire situation with proper care, honey bees and their benefits to the world hang in the balance.

Unlike the U.S., it appears that Europe will air on the side of wisdom and strive to be more vigilant in their use of harmful insecticides. In 2013, the European Union said it would indefinitely ban neonicotinoids use in staple crops, including in lawns and home gardens. Similar regulations of pesticide use in the United States could cost major manufacturers millions in revenue. Unfortunately, corporate greed is still a prevalent factor in the declining health of the entire planet.

Do you believe that there's a conspiracy surrounding the mass death of honey bees?

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Honey Bee Deaths Conspiracy

There have been some unsubstantiated claims and theories around the causes of colony collapse disorder. These intriguing claims have included, mobile phone radiation. A terrorist plot to undermine American food production, and even a religious event dubbed, "The Honey Bee Rapture" when bees become captivated by celestial bodies.

Possibly the most striking and controversial of these conspiracy theories is that leaked Environmental Protection Agency documents have detailed the agency's tolerance of clothianidin to squeeze its way through regulatory channels in the wake of scientists and researchers warning of it's detrimental effect on bee colonies.

Interesting Facts About Honey Bees

  • A single bee will produce an amount equal to 1/10th of a teaspoon of honey during their lifetime.
  • A queen can lay up to 2,500 eggs daily, and able to produce over a million eggs in her lifetime.
  • An entire colony will fly upwards of 100,000 miles to produce 1 kilogram of honey, the equivalent of three trips around Earth.
  • The honey bee is the only insect known to produce a food source for humans.
  • Honey bees perform the most complex symbolic language/dance of any insect on the planet.
  • An over-achieving and highly productive worker may visit up to 2,000 flowers per day.
  • They know sacrifice, they are the only bees that die after they use their stingers.
  • There are over 20,000 species of bees, yet only four produce honey.
  • They have the ability to maintain a hive temperature of 93-96 degrees, despite external temperatures of 110 or -40 degrees.
  • Honey bees have a maximum fly speed of up to 15 miles per hour.
  • They are known to be cannibalistic, when times are bad, they will eat their own larvae for survival, to assure the continuity of the hive.
  • Bees are now being utilized to sniff out bombs and land mines for the military.
  • A bees sense of smell is greater than a canine's sense of smell.

How can we Save the Honey Bees

In light of the mass deaths of whole colonies, it has eerily reminded me of something that Albert Einstein obscurely remarked, "If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live?" What is more disturbing then Einstein's concise predictions, is his certainty in the matter. Whether we will lose the battle to help honey bees remains to be seen.

If I may ask readers to do anything, it's to spread awareness. If trends continue, they're in real danger of becoming an endangered species. With the loss of honey bees, so will the pollination of one third of the planet's food production. It will no doubt, effect this planet and its human inhabitants profoundly. Imagine an increasingly hungry world faced with even more hunger, is it a future you want to see? Please share this article with friends and your social network. Facebook, tweet it, pin it, whatever helps to spread awareness!

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    • simplehappylife profile image

      SA Williams 3 months ago from Earth

      Excellent read. I've been aware of this for at least six or seven years. It's so sad, and most people are completely unaware that it's happening. I'm so glad you outlined the major concerns with the use of pesticides. I think that that has a GREAT deal to do with it (pointing my finger directly at factory farming -especially corn production).

      It seems M. Night Shyamalan (one of my most favorite writer/director's) tried to bring the topic more to the forefront of conversation with his movie The Happening. I don't think many people put much thought into it, though :( At least not where we are (maybe in California).

      Anyway, great article :) I'm sharing it on Flipboard :)

    • profile image

      Baa 2 years ago

      just blog hopping here and drippon by to greet you happy new year. if only we could imitate bee's attitude towards work, then i am sure the world will be better.

    • Michael Kismet profile image
      Author

      Michael Kismet 2 years ago from Northern California

      I apologize for taking so long to reply Ann, it is very saddening what we're doing to our planet. Wild tigers, polar bears, now our honey bees, it's a deplorable situation. Thank you for reading, I appreciate your support on the matter.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I found out recently about the plight of the honey bee and am familiar with Einstein's quote. I think it is excellent that you are raising awareness of this issue because honey bees are necessary for our existence. It is amazing that such a small insect could have so much influence on all that we eat, but it does. Thanks for sharing.

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