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Honeybee Deaths Are Down (Slightly)

Over 23 percent of honeybee colonies died last year, an improvement from nearly 30 percent mortality previously.

honeybees

Photo: Jack Wolf (Flickr)

Are honeybees making a comeback?

Last winter, nearly a quarter of honeybee colonies died — but that’s fewer than last year.

Good News?

The Bee Informed Partnership has been tracking the plight of the bees since 2006, when until last year, bees have been dying at a rate of 29.6 percent annually.

Although slowing, a mortality rate of 23.2 percent is still troubling.

Beekeepers were accustomed to losses of 10-15 percent annually before bees started mysteriously dying.

Pests and Disease

Colony Collapse Disorder was the name given to the possible cause for bee deaths, which is a combination of the Nosema cerena fungus, an RNA virus called Dicistroviridae, and poor nutrition with a possible link to pesticide use.

Experts believe infestations of the Varroa destructor mite are also to blame — a vampire mite that essentially sucks the bees’ blood from the inside.

Add those issues to the loss of habitat and the stress of traveling for food, and bees face numerous challenges.

More than just honeybees are suffering — native bees are also dying off at unprecedented rates. The rusty patched bumble bee has lost 87 percent of their natural habitat.

What’s Being Done

The USDA has tried to combat bee losses by breeding bees resistant to Varroa mites.

At the USDA Headquarters People’s Garden they announced USDA Bee Watch, a 24-hour stream of bees in their beehive at the garden so anyone can learn about bees, anytime.

Read More:

  • Honeybee Deaths Are Down, But the Beepocalypse Continues (TIME)
  • Report Says Fewer Bees Perished Over the Winter, but the Reason Is a Mystery (New York Times)
  • See Honeybees at Work: USDA Launches BeeWatch (USDA)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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