QWhat is killing our honey bees? Why are there no specific answers to the source of the problem?

What is killing our honey bees? Why are there no specific answers to the source of the problem?

AExpert Answer

These are definitely questions that many people are asking and researching to come up with answers.  In a day and age when a person can go to their smart phone to find a restaurant or search for directions, our society is definitely accustomed to finding answers quickly.


Unfortunately, complex issues take more time for the scientific community to research and develop answers. History is full of examples such as genetics, which started with the work of Gregor Mendel in 1856 and eventually led to the discovery of DNA in 1953 and genetic research continues today.  For a nice overview of the scientific process, see this site from the University of California at Berkeley.


The honey bee question may be as complex as the genetics question. Thus far experts have agreed that many factors (parasites (Varroa Mite), diseases, stress (movement of hives for pollination services), habitat changes (urban encroachment), inadequate forage or nutrition, pesticide use (both inside the hive and out)) impact honey bee survival (see https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder for more detail). Even the genetics of the honey bee are being evaluated (see the story by NPR).


Each of these factors can act alone or together in many different combinations (720 combinations to be precise) and so many studies and many years are needed to determine specific answers. In addition, even when studies are conducted they can lead to confusing results. The most recent study generating discussion is by the United Kingdom based Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). A simple search for CEH Bee Study will provide multiple perspectives and opinions about the study including this one from the Washington Post. The discussions are a critical part of science and help find the best answer.


In the meantime, quick answers are being developed. Bayer recognized the potential problem with dust from planters containing levels of an insecticide used for protecting seeds and developed a new fluency agent that can significantly reduce this dust at time of planting. The Feed A Bee program is promoting the planting of wildflowers in all types of landscapes. In addition, many other sites (Bee InformedScientific Beekeeping, Honey Bee Health Coalition, Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation)offer information and practical solutions to improving the condition of honey bees. 

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