The idea of bees disappearing in mass quantities may sound a little eerie, but the vanishing of honey bees is no ghost story: it’s happening right now in real life. Why are the bees dying? Will honey bees go extinct? Scientists and researchers are trying to find out what is causing honey bees to disappear, and they’ve come up with a few reasons why bees are endangered.
Why Are Honey Bees Dying Off and Vanishing?
Why are bees dying out? Scientists can explain why the honey bees are endangered and disappearing, but unfortunately it doesn’t all come back to one cause, but a lot of different factors coming together to wipe out the bee population at a fast rate. Here are a few reasons why the honey bees are dying out.
Bee Disease Scientists suspect that one reason why the honey bees are dying is disease, mostly due to the attacks of the varroa mite, a bloodsucking parasite that causes viruses and and disease to spread quickly from bee to bee.
Pesticides and Fungicides Endanger Bees
Exposure to Pesticides and Fungicides Another reason for the death of the honey bees is a fairly obvious one. The pesticides and fungicides sprayed on crops are full of toxic chemicals that lead to the bees dying.
You might say, “Why not stop using pesticides then?” The pesticides and fungicides are used to kill off predators of bees, like the harmful varroa mite.
Scientists are trying to come up with ways to get rid of the bad insects without endangering the good ones in the process, but it’s no question too much pesticide is currently being sprayed.
Traces of up to 21 different kinds of pesticides have been found on some bee pollen, which means there are a lot of opportunities to cut down our outrageously high use of chemicals that are harmful to humans and honey bees.
Honey Bee Habitat Also Vanishing
Poor Nutrition and Lack of Honey Bee Habitat Just like all living things, honey bees need plenty of space to live and grow as well as nutritious food to eat. Scientists have found that the amount of natural “meadow” land full of wildflowers and indigenous plants for bees to pollinate is also vanishing, being replaced by plowed land with mostly soybeans and corn. Just like humans, it is not very nutritious for a honeybee to eat soybean and corn all of the time.
Did you know that since 2006, beekeepers have reported losses of 30 to 90 percent of their honey bee colonies each winter? Before 2006, it was ordinary to lose about 10 to 15 percent of the colony during wintertime, but in the last decade, those numbers have jumped off the chart completely. What’s to blame?
Scientists believe Colony Collapse Disorder is responsible for this change of pace, and that’s not just in the U.S., but around the world. European beekeepers are experiencing the same losses as North American beekeepers. CCD occurs when the worker bees of a colony disappear and leave their queen behind along with a few straggling nurse bees left to care for the last few batches of immature bees.
To put in layman’s terms, the worker bees in the colony are up and leaving their leader behind because … well, no one can figure out why. And it matters because so many international agricultural crops are pollinated by western honey bees. Basically, one-third of the food we eat relies on bees for pollination.
Crops like celery, okra, potato, onion, mustard, broccoli, cauliflower, orange, grapefruit, coconut, strawberry, cotton, avocado, peach, pear, and so many more benefit from honey bee pollination, resulting in an industry of over $200 billion in 2005.
Up to 2013, more than 10 million beehives were lost to CCD which is twice the normal rate of hive loss. While the science community is searching for answers, there are no theories that are wholly agreed upon. Everything from pathogens to genetic factors to loss of habitat is on the table with no clear end in sight.