Reports of the demise of bees have been greatly exaggerated

Reports of the demise of bees have been greatly exaggerated

You’ve probably heard by now that bees are mysteriously dying. In 2006, commercial beekeepers began to witness unusually high rates of honeybee die-offs over the winter — increasing from an average of 15 percent to more than 30 percent. Everything from genetically modified crops to pesticides (even cell phones) has been blamed. The phenomenon was soon given a name: colony collapse disorder. …

But here’s something you probably haven’t heard: There are more honeybee colonies in the United States today than there were when colony collapse disorder began in 2006. In fact, according to data released in March by the Department of Agriculture, U.S. honeybee-colony numbers are now at a 20-year high. And those colonies are producing plenty of honey. U.S. honey production is also at a 10-year high.

Almost no one has reported this, but it’s true. You can browse the USDA reports yourself. …

How can this be? In short, commercial beekeepers have adapted to higher winter honeybee losses by actively rebuilding their colonies. This is often done by splitting healthy colonies into multiple hives and purchasing new queen bees to rebuild the lost hives. Beekeepers purchase queen bees through the mail from commercial breeders for as little as $15 to $25 and can produce new broods rather quickly. Other approaches include buying packaged bees (about $55 for 12,000 worker bees and a fertilized queen) or replacing the queen to improve the health of the hive. By doing so, beekeepers are maintaining healthy and productive colonies — all part of a robust and extensive market for pollination services.

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