Talk about a buzzkill. U.S. honey bee populations are continuing to dwindle and it could have drastic effects on agriculture The Wall Street Journal reports. A study released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that 31 percent of bee colonies died this past winter—about 800,000 bees.
The report is the latest in a serious of mass honey bee deaths reported over the past several years. A decline was first reported by beekeepers in 2006 and is attributed to multiple factors such as parasites, mal-nutrition, disease and parasites. A separate Department of Agriculture study released last week concluded that scientists could find no single cause for bee deaths.
While the declining bee populations might be good news for those who live in fear of stinging insects, it’s actually bad news. After all, bees play a vital role in food production. The loss of honey bees across the country could mean dramatic changes to crops and the work of farmers. Almond farms in California are especially reliant on bee pollination. The Agriculture Department estimates that insect-pollination directly contributes $20 billion to the U.S. economy annually. The same study says that if indirect products such as milk and beef, which are created by cows that feed on crops that in turn rely on pollination, were to be included, bees’ economic contribution would rise to $40 billion. The honey yield is also diminishing, with bees producing less honey than they have in previous years, according to USDA data.
European countries have responded to declines in bee populations by banning certain pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which some scientists have found to be extremely harmful to bees. But U.S. regulators say they do not have enough evidence to place a country-wide ban on them and are still working on solutions