Honey Bees Are Not Declining in North America

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At least, not as a result of the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder:

honeybees

This is not to say honey bees aren’t experiencing problems. The bees are still struggling with imported Varroa mites (the likely cause of the 1990’s decline), and beekeepers are having to work harder to rebuild their summer stocks after a troubling increase in winter losses that may be related to CCD. But the overall numbers aren’t dire. Keep these statistics in mind when evaluating claims about imminent honey bee collapse owing to pesticides, Obamacare, or whatever the bogeyman of the day is.

(via Forbes)

 

 

22 thoughts on “Honey Bees Are Not Declining in North America”

    1. Note the differences in time scale between the two graphs. Yes, there’s a long term decline, but over the past decade the bees have roughly stabilized in spite of CCD.

    2. Perhaps this is also a function of the decrease in family farms, decrease in rural populations, and equivalent trends as well as habitat conversion. After all, we are enumerating a human managed species incidence which requires actual human effort (and requires someone to supply local numbers) rather than measuring pollinator biomass per hectare or some number related to natural density of pollinator population. It would be neat to see the trend in numbers of US beekeepers and hives per beekeeper on the same graph.
      —>
      I would guess there are some published biomass/area numbers from some place or another but admittedly am too lazy to look.

      1. As growers become more efficient, especially with water use, fewer weeds are found on the farms. Drip, GMO, gps guided cultivators etc, all lead to improved production with same or less water. Less water is available for non crop plants, ie weeds (pollen/nectar sources).
        Also, yellow star thistle is much less of a “problem” thanks to the release of many different parasites that have been released/ established and are killing or reducing the size of yellow star thistle. YST is a huge provider of nectar and pollen in the summer for bees. (beekeeping is the only industry that appreciates this thistle)

      1. Thanks for the link! This new round of summer losses is indeed troubling, especially since the timing is so different from CCD.

    1. Why should I ? Alex lets most every troll post their opinion 8>P

      Or perhaps you are astonished that Alex untypically posted some numbers to reinforce his assertion that the sky is not falling?

  1. From the graph it looks like the # of colonies have declined from ~320,000,000 –> a low point of ~ 250,000,000. Glad to learn that our bee-dependent civilization will not collapse, but that is still a loss of 70,000,000 colonies. It looks like the #s are slowly recovering. Still, I will feel better when they approach the previous higher levels.

  2. Can I go out on a limb and say that I want to know if there are any error bars to be put onto the graph, if Excel was allowed anywhere near the construction of it (in which case it should be allowed to die a painless death – the poor chart) and what the actual regression analysis on that line is?

    Also, if someone else can do it, because while I’m trying to look clever over here – I’m too damn lazy to get off my internet backside to do it myself 😉

    1. The data aren’t generated from a sample, but from a census of honey producing beekeepers. This is a regulated industry that is monitored by government. Thus, these numbers aren’t a statistical estimate of the number of beehives but an actual count, so sampling error bars don’t have the same meaning.

      The numbers are certainly an underestimate, as some of the smaller hobby beekeepers might be working under the radar.

  3. Though your point is well-taken, that’s not a fair estimate. Africanized bees do particularly well in LA’s climate, so the feral population is quite high. Much of the rest of the state is too temperate or too high elevation. Elsewhere in North America outside the range of Africanized bees, feral populations persist at low levels, but probably don’t approach the number of domesticated hives.

  4. Alex, the calc was not intended to be ‘fair’. Rather, it was an estimate the possible magnitude of a HB colony undercount. Dunno about your other assertions since I know squat bout bees but….
    ———–
    Arizona estimates 250,000 wild colonies statewide (2 per SqMi) vs. 23,000 reported by USDA, and so on. Even including only portions of CA, AZ, NM, TX and FL could yield a pretty massive wild population to add to the USDA numbers judging from the AZ example, assuming the rest of the country had none, which is absurd. AHB are hardly the only lineage employed to deal with current challenges.
    ————
    http://pest.ceris.purdue.edu/map.php?code=ISAEAEA#
    According to the NAPIS, USDA, etc. wild africanized bees have been found into roughly 1/4 of the US.
    Never mind the escapees from hybrid AHB crosses employed by hobbyists and professionals anyplace else they decide to try their luck with purchases from areas known for some “hot queens”.
    —–
    In any case, the problem seems to be manageable in production hives, as your graph indicates.

  5. 2013 shows another 2-3% more hives than 2012 (graph only goes to 2012). But 99% of the stories out there show us to be on the brink of human extinction. I am an almond grower and all beekeepers I have spoken with have reported much improved colony strength this year. But there is a lot of government money out there that will not be harvested if bee industry reports good news, and research dollars are well spent on bee health, so not complaining. But these stories also allow beekeepers to continue charging 4 times what they were charging 10 years ago. But politicians will take advantage of knee jerk voters and ban this or that just to get elected. And it works! Thanks AlexWild for posting these scientific articles. But reporting that bee health is ok will not get you interviewed on MSNBC.

  6. Pingback: Science online, one in twenty edition | Jeremy Yoder

  7. I was told that growers kill off the hives rather than taking the time and money to keep them over the winter. ANd that by moving them around more they are not as strong as colonies used to be.
    Anyone know about that as a source of decline.

  8. Africanized bees do particularly well in LA’s climate, so the feral population is quite high. Much of the rest of the state is too temperate or too high elevation. Elsewhere in North America outside the range of Africanized bees, feral populations persist at low levels, but probably don’t approach the number of domesticated hives.

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