There are various threats and factors that can lead to temporary decline of US honey bee numbers.
Other species of bees are subject to different threats, and there’s a very very small number of species of bees that are endangered (about 8 species out of 25,000) globally.
In this guide, we look at the various potential solutions to stop bee population decline and death.
Causes Of Bee Loss & Decline
We’ve already summarised that US honey bees are not currently endangered, or currently in danger of going extinct.
But, there are threats that can lead to temporary loss or decline of bee numbers. Read this guide for an outline of the causes of bee population loss and decline.
Obstacles To Identifying Exact Causes Of Bee Decline, and Implementing Solutions
Identifying the exact cause for temporary or permanent bee population numbers decline isn’t precise or easy. There are shortcomings and inaccuracies with doing so:
- mechanisms for reporting colony losses and identifying the source of contamination are deficient and variable based on state and local government agencies
- Although people on farms and in cities are ready and willing to take action to protect bees and other beneficial insects, their actions are impeded by a lack of financial incentives, lack of abundant seeds to plant pollinator habitat on large scales, and lack of education about ways to protect pollinators while applying pesticides.
How To Stop The Bee Population From Dying (Solutions To Save Bees)
- More effective pest management practices by beekeepers – of Varrora mites mainly, but also other pests like Acarina mites and hive beetles. In particular, better practices need to be implemented that deal with the resistance Varrora mites develop to miticides made to kill them.
- Focus on bee diet and nutrition by beekeepers – some keepers are adding protein supplements, or making the diet more diverse than just sugar water or corn syrup and one monoculture crop. The problem with the current bee diet is that sugar water, or monoculture crops that bees go out to pollinate, might not have enough diversity or nutrition. When bees aren’t getting proper nutrition, their health suffers, they get weak, and other environmental threats and stressors can impact their well being and mortality (they become more susceptible to pesticides, mites, diseases and so on)
- More focus on how miticides affect bees – miticides can impact bee health and their ability to function, but exactly to what extent and how to deal with this needs better clarification.
- More focus on how synthetic seed/crop pesticides affect bees – crop pesticides can impact bee health and their ability to function (when bees go out to collect nectar and to fertilize/pollinate crops), but exactly to what extent and how to deal with this needs better clarification. It’s possible organic pesticides are explored in terms of their suitability, or current pesticides are improved more to become more safer
- More effective communication between beekeepers and farmers whose crops are being pollinated – there needs to be more effective communication on the impact the pesticides are having on bees when they come back to hives – how do bees respond in the short and long term once coming back? Farmers (whose crops are pollinated by bees), and bee keepers can work together in this regard
- More focus on how to prevent and manage bee diseases such as foulbrood and chalkbrood – could come from better nutrition, or better hive conditions
- Protection of bee natural habitats – Habitat destruction occurs because of urbanization. Flower meadows are a favorite habitat of bees and other pollinators
- Protection of bees against animal and plant threats – Threats such as non-native animals, non-native plant species, nonnative predators and so on
- A focussed effort to restore bee numbers after natural events – such as hurricanes, tsunamis and drought
- A focussed effort to restore bee numbers after other destructive events such as wildfires
- A focussed effort to restore bee numbers after colder winter months
- More study on the impact of changing global world temperatures (and possibly climate change) on bees – changing temperature can stress the physiology of bees, change their individual and hive behavior, change their feeding patterns, and force them to find more mild climates where there are less nutritious food sources available
beelab.umn.edu also propose how we might create more positive change for bees and other pollinator species:
- [we can remove the above listed obstacles by] (1) developing better usage and incident reporting data systems; (2) generating more and better training for pesticide applicators; (3) increasing awareness about the importance of integrated pest management (IPM), both for pesticide applicators and beekeepers; and (4) modifying landscape practices to accommodate honey bees, native bees, and other beneficial insects would generate real and positive change.
acsh.org has some suggestions and observations for managing bee population numbers:
- beekeepers have been able to adapt their managerial practices and repopulate their stocks when cold weather or virus-related losses occur.
- Winter losses can easily be replenished by splitting hives, but experts say that’s not the optimal solution; it would be better for bee stocks for overwinter losses to continue their recent decline.
- Bee keepers can also charge higher prices for pollination services and honey (or they can find agricultural fields that will pay higher prices) – this incentivizes beekeepers to increase colony numbers