40 Percent Of Bee Hives Lost Last Year: The Reason Is Making Scientists And Beekeepers Panic En Masse

The bee goes through the year much like we do — they’re most likely to get sick in the winter, but spend the summer healthy and strong. But a new survey of the country’s apiarists has uncovered a troubling trend — 40 percent of all hives died last year.

“That totally shocks me. I would have never guessed that would happen. In the winter, of course, the bees have to live off their stores of honey,” study co-author Dennis van Engelsdorp told Newsweek. “It’s the most stressful time, and you’re going to see losses. But summer losses? Summertime is like paradise for bees … with all the flowers.”

Colony collapse disorder has frightened scientists since it appeared in 2006, but this 40 percent dive just adds to the concern. The repercussions may not be immediate, however: bee keepers recover by splitting surviving colonies and starting fresh and the population usually increases, the Associated Press added.

That’s all fine and good — for a while. Trouble is, this procedure pushes colonies to the brink of their ability to bounce back. And there are a few troubling reasons why beehives are emptying at alarming rates in the first place.

First, for some stats.

The survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, began in April 2014.

It found slightly more than 40 percent of all colonies were lost; that’s the second highest loss in almost a decade.

More died off in summer — about 27 percent — than winter. That’s an increase from almost 20 percent in 2013.

And overall, we have more bee hives than we did last year — currently, that total is 2.74 million, up from 2.64 million in 2014.

Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Wisconsin had the highest losses.

For study co-author Keith Delaplane, the insects are telling us something is seriously wrong.

“(It’s) a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems. We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”

So what’s going on? Mites, poor diets, stress, and pesticides may be to blame, but scientists don’t really know. The Environmental Protection Agency is still taking some action — they’ve banned use of pesticides called neonicotinoids until their effect on the insects can be gauged, the Wall Street Journal added.

It’s possible, however, that the loss is caused by overdeveloped farmland — they have nothing to forage, Newsweek suggested. Farmers have plowed under fields to make way for profitable corn and soybeans, meaning there’s no room for flowers to grow. And what do they like best? Flowers.

In the end, a 40 percent loss of beehives will affect farmers the most — they need the little insects to pollinate their crops — about $15 billion worth.

[Photo Courtesy David Silverman/Getty Images]