Empty Hives: Examining the Precipitous Decline in Bee Population

Written by Caleb Barsch, ESLLC 2016-2017

For millennia, bees have provided humans and the rest of life with an innumerably valuable service: free pollination of the Earth’s plants. The United Nations estimates that bees provide the world with a service worth $200 billion every year, adding the same economic value as the entire country of Vietnam. However, these bee colonies are under siege from an unknown threat, which has manifested itself in the form of colony collapse disorder, or CCD. Different governments have different responses to CCD,

CCD occurs when workers leave the hive for a currently unknown reason, leaving the queen to die and the hive to fall into disrepair. While CCD-like behavior has been observed since the mid-19th century, the pace of collapse has quickened exponentially over the last decade. Unlike white nose syndrome with bats or egg issues with peregrine falcons, the cause of CCD has not been determined, which has made acting to mitigate or stop it nearly impossible. Fungi, pesticides, and parasites have all been put forth as causes, but there is no scientific consensus yet.

The EPA is seeking to lower bees’ exposure to insecticides and pesticides in an effort to reduce the instances of colony collapse disorder. Although this has not been proven as the cause, it is widely considered a contributing factor, and the federal EPA is encouraging states to come up with their own plans to combat CCD. The EU has been much more hands-on, banning multiple pesticides that were thought to contribute to CCD. However, the problem remains much more pronounced in Europe than in the US.



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