Where are all the honeybees going? That is the billion-dollar question agriculturalists across the world are asking. Colonies are dying out in large quantities as the majority of their worker bees simply disappear. It’s called colony collapse disorder.
Between 1947 and 2005, the number of honeybees in the US decreased from 5.9 million to 2.4 million.
If honeybees continue to disappear at the current rate, they could be extinct by 2035. Currently, the western honeybee is one of the most important pollinators in the world.
Bee pollination is worth $15 billion to the US farming industry alone.
Honeybee shortage has had an increasing negative impact on the economy, raising the prices of almonds, beef, dairy, and more. Meanwhile, beekeepers are struggling to keep up with demands even as they dramatically raise their costs.
What’s Causing the Problem?
Colony collapse disorder has happened to varying degrees over the course of history but never at this scale. The problem is, experts can’t agree on what exactly is causing it. The presence of infections, mites, and parasites is a likely contributor, but many doubt it’s the root cause.
Some specialists believe it stems from pesticides. While these pesticides aren’t directly lethal to honeybees, they may be sublethal, weakening the bees and impairing their development. Other possible factors include beekeeping practices, malnutrition, and climate change.
Most likely, there is not one singular cause, but rather, it’s a culmination of different causes. With so many variables at play, counteracting it has proven very difficult.
So, what can be done?
Combating CCD with Natural Pollinator Habitat
One way to combat the shortage of honeybees is to decrease our dependence on them. Some ag experts believe the honeybee shortage is exposing a greater issue: the lack of pollinator diversity.
Honeybees are not the only pollinators available. After all, they’re not even native to America. Rather than relying on the colonies of beekeepers, many are turning to native bees, such as bumblebees and mason bees, for their pollinator needs.
Many native bees have seen sharp population declines in recent years as well, though the reasons are less mysterious.
The primary issue is a lack of pollinator habitat. Bees and other pollinators have lost much of their native habitat due to modern farming, residential landscaping, city planning, and more.
To thrive, these pollinators need places to live.
Through initiatives such as the Conservation Reserve Program, landowners and farmers can be paid to take land out of production and establish pollinator habitat. Not only does this benefit pollinators, but it’s been shown to improve the health and crop yield in surrounding land.
If you’re interested in establishing pollinator habitat, contact FDCE today. We offer turn-key solutions that handle the entire process for you, including pollinator-friendly CRP seed procurement, land preparation, planting, documentation, pesticide spraying, and submitting the necessary reports to FSA.