Honeybee Colonies Are on the Rise — Up 27% in 2017
Just over a decade ago, beekeepers began reporting disturbing declines in honeybee populations. Bees, they said, were leaving the hive and not returning. The phenomenon, now known as colony collapse disorder, is alarming not only because of the central role bees play in plant life around the world—and thus most other life—but also because no one knew why the decline was happening or how to stop it. Several possible causes have since been identified, but that hasn’t prevented the disappearances.
But new data give some reason for optimism. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Tuesday, honeybee populations are on the rise. As of April, an estimated 2.89 million bee colonies existed across the U.S., an increase of 3 percent compared to April 2016.
Colony collapse disorder makes sustaining a hive difficult. When worker bees abruptly leave, the queen bee is left with just a few nurse bees to raise the remaining immature larvae. Although the colony is left with ample food following the disappearance of the workers, the hive can’t operate without their contribution, eventually leading to its death. Colony collapse disorder refers to the combination of events that lead to that destruction.
Several years ago, beekeepers began noticing diminishing numbers of colonies surviving the winter. Typically, hives that survived the winter months averaged at 28.7 percent. However, the number dropped 23.1 percent for the 2014-2015 winter and remained relatively low since.
But newly released figures from the USDA indicate a break in that trend. Only about 84 colonies were lost in first quarter of 2017. That figure is 27 percent less than the number of colonies reported lost for the first quarter of 2016.