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All The Bees Are Dying, And We Still Can't Make It Stop

Without bees, there will be no food. And yet while scientists keep noting the bee bodies piling up, no one can come up with a solution. Do we even know what’s causing it?

Honeybees have been dying in large numbers for years, and an article from the New York Times indicates that the problem is only getting worse.

We’ve written about the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder—a phenomenon where honey bees disappear from their colonies, never to return—a number of times over the years. We have also pointed out the role of neonicotinoids, a class of plant pesticide thought to contribute to the problem. Neonicotinoids are once again in the spotlight as a result of growing bee deaths in the past year (40% to 50% of the hives that pollinate fruits and vegetables in the U.S., which is just terrifying). One beekeeper is quoted in the Times article with a worrying anecdote:

"They looked so healthy last spring," said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. "We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before."

And yet another disturbing quote from the Times:

Bret Adee, who is an owner, with his father and brother, of Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota, the nation’s largest beekeeper, described mounting losses.

"We lost 42 percent over the winter. But by the time we came around to pollinate almonds, it was a 55 percent loss," he said in an interview here this week.

Sound familiar? This echoes what Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobold told us in 2010:

Now the stakes are higher than ever. Tom Theobald’s honey crop this year is the smallest he’s seen in 35 years of beekeeping. "This is the critical winter for the beekeeping industry. I don’t think we can survive," he says. "If the beekeeping industry collapses, it jeopardizes a third of American agriculture."

Here’s the problem: honeybees are more important than you might think. They pollinate most of the foods that humans love, including peaches, plums, pears, almonds, eggplant, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, mustard, coconut, onions—the list goes on. Bee die-off impacts us all.

Scientists still don’t know exactly why this is happening. As we mentioned, neonicotinoids probably play a big part, though Jay Vroom, the president of CropLife America is quoted by the Times as saying that research on the pesticides "supports the notion that the products are safe and are not contributing in any measurable way to pollinator health concerns." That’s not entirely true. Herbicides and fungicides also most likely play key roles in the recent bee decline.

Honeybees pollinate a third of all crop species in the U.S. Why isn’t this considered a national emergency? If it isn’t taken more seriously—and if certain pesticides aren’t banned or restricted—we’ll all have some unpleasantly limited diets.

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  • Vasillios


    The bees will stop dying when the EPA (Executive protection
    agency) starts acting like the environmental protection agency.

  • Will Panos


    Croplife America is funded by big agribusiness like Bayer
    and Syngenta so when you hear them talking your actually listening to these
    corporations. Croplife America handles all the dirty work for them like propaganda
    etc., like the bouncers in the bar. These people ignore all the science and
    only what their paid to do, deny, deny, deny.

  • Renaissance Man

    The wrong questions are still being asked on so many issues...

    How do bees navigate back to the hive?  Anyone?

    I'll answer for you as it has nothing to do with Monsanto...

    MAGNETISM! What can disrupt their sense of this field they use to navigate? RADIO WAVES!

    What produces radio waves that is newly installed and new to the planet around these colonies? CELL PHONE TOWERS!

    -Renaissance Man

  • Foobar252

    It's not just pesticides though - there are mites that are causing a lot of the issues in the US and beekeepers didn't have an effective option for managing them. Here's a link to an article where the EPA just approved a new miticide that's been used in Europe for more than 15 years.

  • xzanthius

    It is not a national emergency because some mega-agricultural corporation (ex. Monsanto) is already planning for how they are going to profit from the upcoming food catastrophe   They are going to 'save' us from the problem they manufactured (for a profit).

  • Will Panos

    If Crop life America is so sure these toxins are not the
    problem they should allow a temporary ban. Neonicotinoids like Clothianidin are
    7000 times more toxic to bees then DDT, and they are finding it in the hives
    but Croplife America says it’s not a factor. Really?

  • Patrick Gibbons

    Ive just returned from Spain where I have been sourcing honey for export.
    As this is a very topical issue for bee keepers i would ask everyone we visited.
    I was surprised that across the board every beekeep I met universally blamed pesticides for the global problems. I have asked keepers in Poland similar and got an array of answers such as weather and bad husbandry but i am entirely convinced that the recent keepers I have met in spain are correct, it was quite apparent that if the 6km surrounding the hives have vegatation sprayed with pesticide they will be dramatically impacted as apposed to the keepers who have hives placed in non pesticide regions. even with the weather as unpredictable as it is, on observation the bees are little more then confused. One keeper I met was able to point to a specific date for which the decline in activity in his hives begun corresponding to the date his distant neighbors begun extensive spraying - bearing in mind bee travel distanc and that pesticide will travel via wind.

  • Matthew Newell

    My Grandfather was a beekeeper, farmer, and he kept cows. He did not use pesticides. The word organic always confused my Grandmother because they grew a lot of their own food and it was all "organic". She told me her kids grew up healthy because she fed them REAL food from the garden to the table. 
    Stop the pesticides. This should be a national emergency. It could also stop our shortage of jobs if our government did more things to encourage bee-keeping and farming. 

  • kulls

    Pesticides and increasing pollution..these are the main reasons.. It is all a circle.. You waste food.. you kill birds and flowers.. bees are also affected in the process ultimately bringing up natural disasters leading to human deaths.. 
    So much simple yet difficult to understand

  • minnie33

    The demise of the honeybee is a complex issue. I do not understand is
    the surprise from commercial beekeepers in the US about the sickness of
    their bees. CCD is not a phenomena we have in the UK. Our bees are under
    threat mostly from a blend of reasons including the varroa mite that is
    a vector of other viruses, loss of habitat, bad husbandry practices,
    weather, pesticides etc. Bees a range of nutrients to stay healthy. They
    are sensitive to vibration. Putting hundreds of hives onto the back of
    trucks and transporting them across the country is the first, in what I
    see, as a string of factors that seriously compromise bee health. In
    transit I assume bees would be feed on corn syrup and then feed off
    monocultures of almond pollen. This doesn't represent a balanced diet
    and would be the same as a human being eating nothing but potatoes for
    weeks, nothing but apples for weeks etc. You’d be malnourished. Barren
    almond groves with no other flowers in sight is an abhorrent thing to
    see. The diet these insects are forced to endure, interspersed with long
    journeys is a recipe for disaster. Treated as a commodity with no
    respect for their natural lifecycle or nutritional needs leads to
    malnourished honeybees prone to illness. Add to this that bees from all
    corners are then co-mingled which must heightened the risk of disease
    spreading which is then taken back to infect other hives from where they
    came. No mystery, just common sense.

    Angela Woods
    Sec. of the London Beekeepers Assoc

  • maggie thatcher

     perhaps this is what the U.S needs in order for Monsanto, Bayer et al to cease with their madness.... the majority of the populace seems rather complacent about the whole farce ! Politicians don't give a flying fack !