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Nearly half of honeybee colonies died in 2022, but population remains stable

Jun 23

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A recent survey conducted by the University of Maryland and Auburn University has shed light on the dire situation faced by honeybees, with the loss of nearly half of all bee colonies reported last year. This alarming figure represents the second-highest death rate on record, leaving beekeepers deeply concerned about the future of these vital creatures.

“This is a very troubling loss number when we barely manage sufficient colonies to meet pollination demands in the U.S.,” said former government bee scientist Jeff Pettis, president of the global beekeeper association Apimondia. “It also highlights the hard work that beekeepers must do to rebuild their colony numbers each year.”

The survey, which extensively examined America’s beekeepers, revealed that approximately 48% of bee colonies were lost. However, the study’s authors emphasize that despite this high rate of loss, the overall population of bee colonies remains relatively stable.

Scientists involved in the study have attributed the substantial decline in bee colonies to several factors. Climate change is believed to be disrupting the bees’ normal winter routine, causing them to emerge prematurely and struggle to survive. Parasitespesticides and starvation have also been identified as other primary causes responsible for the decimation of last year’s colonies.

“There are threats certainly in the environment and honeybees have persisted,” Jay Evans, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department Agriculture, said. “I don’t think honeybees will go extinct but I think they will always have these sort of challenges.”

Experts have said that losing a significant portion of the honeybee population each year is not unprecedented. The survey’s scientists assert that it is typical to lose around 20% of bees over the winter season, but more than three-fifths of beekeepers surveyed said their losses were higher than that last year.

“The situation is not really getting worse, but it’s also not really getting better,” University of Maryland bee researcher Nathalie Steinhauer, the survey’s lead author, said.

Efforts to protect honeybees have gained traction in recent years, with initiatives focusing on reducing pesticide use, creating bee-friendly habitats, and raising awareness about the importance of these pollinators.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says 35% of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants and the honeybee is responsible for 80% of that pollination.

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