American agriculture is losing its bee pollinators. Over the past 10 years there has been an alarmingly steady decline of honeybees. And the situation is so dire, that one species of bumble bee, the rusty patched bumble bee, is now on the endangered species list.
According to a group of honeybee researchers from different parts of the country, beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies in 2015, which was the second highest loss of colonies to occur this past decade. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that beekeepers “lost 12 to 18 percent of their colonies each quarter between January 2015 and April 2016.”
The Bee Informed Partnership, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, are working hard to figure out why.
Scientists believe that the cause for the serious decline in bees is not one factor but a combination of three main stressors: parasites, poor nutrition and pesticides.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurs, listing “farm pesticides, household herbicides, human development over bee habitat, disease and climate change” as suspected causes.
Plants require pollination to survive, which is what bees do. And though the rusty patched bumble bee is the first bee species designated as endangered, others may follow.
Why was this particular bumble bee chosen for the endangered list? Because of its “former abundance and astonishing plummet.” Why is there concern that other bee species, such as the honeybee, may follow? Because they are declining astonishingly fast too.
The bees are sending us humans a serious warning signal. You may think you can’t make a difference to improve their plight, but you can just by reducing the use of harmful pesticides in and around your home. There are environmentally safe alternatives.