ENVIRONMENT

Honeybees suffered one of the highest death rates this year

Jun 24, 2023, 1:00 PM

Beekeeper tending bees...

Beekeeper James Cook works on hives near Iola, Wis., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

(AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

SALT LAKE CITY — Though honeybees are no longer in danger of disappearing completely, almost half of the U.S. bee colonies died last year.

The Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with Auburn Unversity and the University of Maryland, found big losses in their annual bee survey. The survey collected responses from over three thousand beekeepers from across the United States. Through their feedbacker, researchers found that 48% of bee colonies were lost in the last year.

Biggest threats to honeybees

The survey reported the foremost threat to colony death over the last year’s winter season was “varroa.” Varroa destructor is a parasite bee mite. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that the mites attach themselves to bees, feeding on their hemolymph — or blood — until the bees either die from a loss of blood or are subjected to a microbial invasion. 

In second and third place for winter weather were “adverse weather” and “starvation.”

In the summer of 2022, however, “queen issues” took the number-one spot as the most prominent cause of loss. Varroa and adverse weather closely followed. 

Why we care

Honeybees are crucial to our food supply, but we keep losing them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 35% of our diet comes from plants that depend on pollinators to reproduce. Honeybees are especially critical when you consider that they pollinate 80% of those plants.

While the total number of colonies in the country has remained stable over the last 20 years, beekeepers remain under substantial pressure to keep their colonies alive. 

Despite the scary numbers, beekeepers are trudging along. They’re employing new beekeeping strategies such as splitting hives, finding new queens, and restocking the best they can. 

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Honeybees suffered one of the highest death rates this year