A bumblebee has officially been put on the Endangered Species list, according to a report by NPR. This is huge.
We have been reporting for several years about the impact of the loss of bee colonies on Virginia’s agriculture and this is not limited to Virginia. It is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that has issued this unfortunate update.
What is the Rate of Bee Colony Decline?
As reported by NPR, here is a staggering statistic about the decline of our pollinating bumblebees. According to a rule in the Federal Register, these bees were found in 31 states and Canadian provinces as recently as the mid-1990’s, yet by 2000 the bee was found in only 13 states plus just one Canadian province… Ontario. In fact, Canada named the bee as one of their Endangered Species in 2012. Since 2000, territories inhabited by bumblebees have decreased by 87%. And since 2000, bee populations have decreased by 88%.
Why Are Bee Colonies Declining?
There are several reasons for the decline of the bee colonies. Two big issues are the loss of appropriate bee habitat due to growth in agricultural and rural areas, as well as the impact of insecticide exposure in the bee environments. And recently bee populations have suffered loss due to colony disease and pathogens like the varroa mite that can kill whole colonies. You can see how this is pushing the bee species closer to extinction and why it is definitely time for the U.S. to consider the bee ‘endangered’.
What Does Bee Loss Mean To Farmers?
The U.N. has issued opinions that suggest that about “40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species are facing extinction”. Approximately 75% of the world’s food crops depend in part on pollination in order to reproduce. Bees instigate a great deal of the food supply chain. Pollination must occur in fruits and vegetables for our food crops. Bees directly affect the farming economy. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, bee activity adds over $14 billion dollars to our economy by increasing crop yields and perpetuating crops of a superior quality. No bees, no corn. No bees, no clover, no cattle forage. The U.N. has expressed concerns about bee colony decline as it affects a global food supply as well as local food supply like Virginia’s farms.
What Do Bees Need to Survive?
Wild bees prefer to live near sunny open patches of ground that are convenient to plants that offer varieties of pollen. They like to be undisturbed over a period of time to establish their colony stability. A recent complication of bee health has been attributed to bee diets of limited food types where they are used to pollinate only a few types of plants. Bees seem to need variety to be healthy.
What Are Toxic Dangers To Bees?
Even if pesticides do not kill a bee directly, the bee may carry the pesticide back to the hive. Bees like to live in the patches of grass and dirt next to roadsides, and there they pick up the chemicals that were used to spray and treat the road, via runoff or direct spray. There is debate about the affect of transgenic crops (crops genetically engineered to carry pesticides in the plant) on bee colonies. And if those aren’t enough threats, hybrid African bees which are quite aggressive, have already migrated as far as Arizona and may soon reach the crop areas of California.
So, What Is the Status of Virginia’s Bee Colonies?
I found an interesting summary about the health of Virginia’s bees by Virginia Farm Bureau. As reported, “According to a survey released May 12 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were 8,000 bee colonies in Virginia on Jan. 1, 2015 owned by professional and amateur beekeepers with more than five hives. As of Jan. 1, 2016, there were 6,500 hives. But 28 percent of the state’s bee colonies were lost over the winter of 2015, compared to only 17 percent this past winter.”
Here is your Virginia bee colony report link to the full article. Honey bees pollinate about one-third of Virginia’s fruit and vegetable crops. When a colony declines, beekeepers take action to restore or replace the colony quickly, by bringing a new queen to the hive or by introducing new worker bees to the hive. In 2016 Virginia beekeepers imported 500 new colonies and 130 renovated colonies.