An Evaluation of the Devastating Decline of Nature’s Best Pollinator

An Evaluation of the Devastating Decline of

Nature’s Best Pollinator

Connecticut’s Honey Bee Crisis

Image retrieved from http://images.wisegeek.com/

bee-on-yellow-flower-with-pollen.jpg

Image retrieved from http://www.pestworld.org/pest-guide/stinging-insects/honeybees/

For the past 60 years, honey bee populations have been declining all across the U.S.

3.5 million colonies (beehives) lost from 1947 – 2014

Loss attributed to:

Pesticide use

Loss of habitat

Disease

Climate change

Honey bee populations saw slight increase in 2015 but are still several million bees below past population size

(Hladky, 2016)

The Decline of the Honey Bee

Number of Honey Bee Colonies

(in millions)

Number of Colonies Lost (in milions) 1947 1970 1990 2014 2015 2016 6 4 3 2.5 2.87 2.59

Connecticut one of the hardest hit states

Recent honey bee colony losses at an all-time high:

2014 – 2015: 57.5% loss

2015 – 2016: near 50% loss

Increasing number of bees lost in Summer months when they should be thriving

Beekeepers not able to replace lost colonies at a sustainable rate

Surviving colonies are being divided to create new ones

Overall health of bee colonies suffer as a result

Statewide conditions are not conducive to best support bee population

Agriculture is suffering due to massive honey bee loss

Honey bees responsible for pollinating large majority of the state’s $3.5 billion agricultural industry

(Boughton, 2013)

Connecticut’s Troubles with Honey Bees

How to Combat Honey Bee Loss

Restore essential honey bee habitats to the point where colonies are able to survive sustainably

Mass plantings of bee-friendly plants and flowering trees such as goldenrod, lavender and tupelo (Baskind, 2011)

Designate protected areas for bees to establish colonies naturally

Wooded areas with hollowed out trees

Areas that allow beehives to thrive with minimal interference and disturbance (Baskind, 2011)

Increase number of beehives managed by beekeepers both commercially and privately

Reduce/manage threats to honey bee colony survival

Eliminate wide use of pesticides that are harmful to bees such as neonicotinoids

Manage common pests that plague bee colonies

Varroa mites (cited by beekeepers as largest contributor to colony destruction)

Hive beetles

Wax moths

(“ARS Honey”, 2016)

Rising cost of purchasing/renting beehives

Causes additional financial burden to beekeepers

Beekeepers can no longer afford to manage the number of colonies they have had in the past (“Fact Sheet”, 2014)

Substantial amounts of land needed to establish a beneficial number of healthy bee colonies

Land availability for other things such as agriculture, development would be reduced

Reduced land use could decrease profits generated from agriculture, development, etc.

Cost of Restoring Honey Bee Habitats

Photo by Amy Toensing, National Geographic Creative

(Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/

2015/08/150815-honeybee-honey-pollination-science)

Finding bee-friendly alternatives to deadly pesticides

Would require extensive research & experimentation

Could prove to be more costly

Alternative pesticides may be harmful other organisms

Other alternatives, such as adopting organic agricultural practices, may make it considerably challenging to protect crops from infestations on a large scale

Requires large amounts of resources

Extensive planning by state government needed to determine best areas to designate for habitat projects

Process could be time consuming

Planning and actual development stage may take years to complete

Funding

Depending on extent of restoration efforts, costs could quickly escalate

State government would have to create a way to fund habitat projects that would not be overly taxing on the overall state budget

Additional Costs of Habitat Restoration

Increased pollination/productivity of crops

Bees are one of the largest contributors to successful pollination of most crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts

More bees = more productive crops (higher yields)

Food security/diversity

(“Save”, n.d.)

Increased Agricultural Profits

Higher crop yields create the potential for significant increases in revenue generated by agriculture

Bees are needed to pollinate wildflowers and many other plants that provide food for many animals and insects (Leonard, 2015)

Bees make honey which is both tasty and a heathier alternative to sugar

Benefits of Restoring Honey Bee Habitats

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar/flickr)

Photo retrieved from http://beethings.

co.za/index.php/about-us

Significant amounts of crops could potentially be lost during the transition from pesticides to alternative practices

No way to know all of the negative effects or losses that may occur due to changes

Difficulty Implementing new legislation

New laws/regulations would need to be created and enforced by state governments

May require the institution of new government funded agencies to enforce new legislation

Could lead to years of debate and deliberations for all parties involved (farmers, agricultural industries, state law makers) to reach agreeable terms on how to address the problem

Determining possible alternatives to current harmful pesticides would be expensive

Extensive, costly experimentation required

If different pesticides are used, they may be less cost-effective than those currently used

Organic agricultural practices may not be as effective in reducing pests

Possible extensive crop damage

Would require more physical effort and new innovative methods to prevent pests

Costs Associated with Reducing Threats to Honey Bee Population

Eliminating pesticides that are harmful to honey bees will greatly increase the chances of restoring a sustainable, abundant population size

Less stress and disturbance imposed upon honey bee colonies

Will result in healthier, more productive colonies

Will lessen the financial burden on private and commercial beekeepers

Reduced threats to bees = less colonies that beekeepers must replace = lower expenses for beekeepers

Positive environmental impact

Natural services that honey bees provide to humans, plants and animals will remain available for years to come

Conservation of honey bees can also contribute to improved water and soil quality

(”Conservation”, 2015)

Benefits of Reducing Threats to Honey Bees

Photos retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

2014/06/17/store-without-bees_n_5500380.html

Connecticut government officials must find a feasible, affordable way to restore honey bee habitats statewide

This is the only way to ensure continued survival of honey bee populations

The success of the state’s agricultural industry is dependent upon pollination that only honey bees can provide

Funds could possibly be raised by various environmental groups; state budget should be altered as necessary to allow for funding of habitat restoration

Alternative pesticides/ pest control methods are a must

Although these may be more expensive initially, the benefits will ultimately greatly outweigh the additional costs

Probable increase of agricultural profits would provide additional funding necessary for other important state projects

Exploration and experimentation of possible alternatives should begin as soon as possible

The issue of honey bee decline should be addressed sooner rather than later to avoid further losses

How should this issue be addressed?

Baskind, Chris. (2011, May 3). 5 ways to help our disappearing bees. Retrieved from http://www.mnn.com/

earthmatters/wilderness-resources/stories/5-ways-to-help-our-disappearing-bees

Boughton, Kathryn. (2013, August 22). Connecticut No Land For Honeybees. Retrieved from http://www.

countytimes.com/articles/2013/08/22/business/doc52161bb1cda06770952892.txt?viewmod e=4

Conservation Work for Honey Bees. (2015, May). Retrieved from http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal

/nrcs/detail/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/?cid=stelprdb1263263

Fact Sheet: The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollinator Populations. (2014, June 20). Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/20/fact-sheet-economic-challenge-posed-declining-

pollinator-populations

Hladky, Gregory B. (2016, May 11). Connecticut Continues To Suffer Massive Loss of Honeybees. Retrieved from http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ct-bee-losses-20160511-story.html

Save the Bees. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/sustainable-agriculture/save-the-bees/

Leonard, Jayne. Here’s Why We Need To Save The Bees + 10 Things You Can Do To Help. (2015, June 12). Retrieved from http://www.naturallivingideas.com/save-the-bees/

References