Fewer Honeybees Died Last Year, But Not Enough to Save Them

If losses continue at the same rate, honey bees in the U.S. won’t survive on the long term

Photo: Siegfried Kramer/imagebroker/Corbis

For honeybees in the U.S., there’s good and bad news. Last year, fewer bees died compared to 2012 to 2013, a new USDA report found. But even with that decline in deaths, the outlook for the bees is still grim. As the Guardian reports, if populations continue on the same downward spiral, then the bees will not survive in the long-term in the U.S.

The report, which surveyed more than 564,500 beehives around the country, found that just over 23 percent of those hives died out last year. That compares to 30.5 percent the year before. This doesn’t necessarily mean bee deaths will steadily decline in the future, though; from 2011 to 2012, for example, the death rate was just 22 percent. In the 1980s, on the other hand, death rates were typically just five to 10 percent, Vox reports. When losses over the past eight years are taken as a whole, experts warn that they’re just too high, the Guardian writes.

Researchers are still trying to figure out what factor—or mix of factors—is causing the deaths. Several peer-reviewed studies have indicated that components of certain pesticides are to blame for the deaths, the Guardian says. (Pesticide manufactures, not surprisingly, beg to differ.) The European Union has banned some pesticides that carry the suspect chemicals, but the U.S. has taken no such action. As Vox points out, honeybees are responsible for pollinating $15 billion worth of crops in the U.S. 

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