Decline in Bee Population Threatens Food Production

Decline in Bee Population Threatens Food Production

(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Bees, earth’s most important pollinators, suffered yet another devastating decline last year, despite the increased efforts to reverse that decline.

U.S beekeepers lost 44 percent of their total colonies from April 2015 to March 2016, an increase of 3.5 percentage points over the previous year, according to the findings of the annual survey. The summer losses, in particular, are “cause for serious concern,” according to Dennis van Engelsdorp, an assistant Professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership, which conducted the study with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Colony loss during winter months jumped to 28.1 percent, from 22.3 percent the year before. To make things worse, the decline didn’t really recover.

“Some winter losses are normal and expected,” said vanEngelsdorp, but 59 percent of responding beekeepers reported winter colony losses, far exceeding the 17 percent rate considered acceptable.

“The fact that beekeepers are losing bees in the summer, when bees should be at their healthiest, is quite alarming,” vanEngelsdorp said. During the past decade, as the bee population began its decline, farms would purchase and employ the release of bees to increase and guarantee food production. Now, the supply is extremely limited.

“Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone,” says Taylor Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect. If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food.”

This is the first year we’ll see a tangible difference in agriculture and food production. Without these pollinators, the world will not be able to sustain it’s own population in the coming decades.

“We’re about to reach a point of no return.”