Ever since the first bees evolved into existence, they have played a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They pollinate several types of plants and flowers, helping them to grow, breed, and eventually produce food. However, recently beekeepers report their industry is on the verge of collapse, and farmers relying on honey bees for pollination services are increasingly nervous. Since 2006, when the term “Colony Collapse Disorder” or CCD was coined in the U.S., commercial beekeepers have reported extraordinary losses averaging 29 to 45 percent per year. Such losses are unprecedented — more than double what is considered normal.
Bee Colony Collapse Disorder kills worker honeybees that have left the hive to search for food. Between 1947 and 2005 the number of honeybees in the US declined 40 percent from 5.9 million to 2.4 million. From there the crisis escalated even more. In April 2016, researchers reported that US honeybee keepers lost 44 percent of their colonies. In a healthy bee colony, around 15 to 20 percent of the bees die during the winter time because of the harsh living conditions but after 2016, more than a third of the colonies’ bees die every winter. Scientists state that if colony collapse disorder continues at the current rate, managed honey bees will disappear by 2035.
Causes of CCD
(One of the mites that targeted the bees)
This problem began in the 1980s when two bloodsucking parasitic mites that target bees entered the US. However, only in the last decade has the decline rapidly increased. In January 2013, the European Food Safety Authority reported that three neonicotinoid class pesticides weakened the bees’ immune systems, causing them to be more vulnerable to these mites and by 2018, it was discovered that bees became even more addicted to these nicotine based pesticides. These pesticides can be mainly found in corn fields but spread to several different crops so when bees go to pollinate a plant or even just fly through one of the fields, they end up consuming or taking some of it with them, which is the eventual cause of their death. This is because these pesticides lead to not only a compromised immune response but also in general shortened adult life cycles, impaired memory and learning, reduced social communication, disorientation, and gut microbe disruption which leads to malnutrition which will lead to a quick death.
Effects on the Economy
The Western honeybee is the world’s premier managed pollinator species. Demand for its services has soared from fruit, nut, and vegetable growers. According to a UN report, 90 percent of the world’s food rely on bees for pollination which is why it is worth over $15 billion to the US farming industry. Rapid declines in pollinator populations put additional stress on an already unstable food supply by depressing yields and agricultural efficiency and increasing prices on domestically grown crops. For example, beekeepers charged almond grows $51.99 per hive in 2003 but by 2016, that fee increased to $180-$200 per hive because their hives are collapsing and need the money to replace them. This disorder also affects the beef and dairy industries and increases the cost of feed-stock and milk products. Lastly, it leads to increased imports of produce from foreign countries which raises the US trade deficit.
Although this issue has been around for a long time and is extremely dangerous, people have been constantly trying to take action. Beekeepers are coping with this issue by breeding more bees. Some farmers are experimenting pollination with other species of bees that may be immune to this pesticide. The EPA has also halted the approval of any new use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Also, to publicize this issue, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the rusty-patched bumblebee on its endangered list. All the measures that are being implemented have started to slow down the extinction of bees and if continued, can drastically increase the bee population.