Honeybee population continues to decline

Posted Apr 2, 2013 by Kristin Denault
A recent report in the New York Times says that honeybee populations continue to suffer significant decline with over 40 percent loss of beehives.
Savannah  Ga. — Honeybee busy at work in Camellia bush s flower
Savannah, Ga. — Honeybee busy at work in Camellia bush's flower
The New York Times says the continued crisis of fading honeybee populations appears to be worsening. This is bad news not only for bees but also for crop farmers and consumers.
Published recently in the Science column, the Times report states that in the last year over 40 percent of beehives vital to pollinating fruit and vegetable crops were lost.
When bee colony populations sharply and suddenly vanish, the cause is often identified as colony collapse disorder (CCD). First observed in 2005-2006, CCD losses to honeybee colonies were so pervasive that US federal and state government levels, together with university and private researchers, partnered with the United States Agriculture Department (USDA) to define CCD and link its causes.
A 2012 USDA report referred to parasites, poor nutrition, pesticides, management practices and habitat as factors associated with CCD. However, this report confirmed that no single factor, or combination of factors, has been established as the source of CCD.
Honeybees are more than honey manufacturers. They pollinate a substantial number of flowering food crops including fruits, vegetables and animal-feed crops. Estimates suggest honeybees pollinate approximately one-third of crops in the United States.
The Times’ report links a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids as a potential cause. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that neonicotinoid deposits can collect in pollen and other plants signifying “a potential exposure to pollinators,” suggesting an adverse effect on honeybee populations. The EPA says an ecological risk assessment will be completed to consider the potential effects of the neonicotinoids to honeybees and other pollinating insects.
With a shrinking bee population, there are concerns that the cost of food could rise as less food crops are available to consumers. The USDA Agricultural Research Service says bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. The impact to actual diets is estimated at one mouthful in every three sourced directly or indirectly from honey bees and their pollination of crops.
The USDA Agricultural Research Service suggests that pollinator-friendly plants such as red clover, foxglove, bee balm, and other native plants are considered beneficial sources of nectar and pollen and therefore friendly to honeybees and production.