The population of the over 700 species of North American bees are reducing in numbers as the loss of habitat continues at a breakneck pace. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, more than half of the 1,400 species of bees are on the decline and nearly a quarter is at risk of being extinct.
In Florida alone, millions of honeybees fell victim to heavy flooding brought about by Hurricane Irma in 2017, resulting in an inadequate supply of honey, fruits, and many other foods. Farmers have reported that many hives have perished and have become useless.
Honey Land Farms’ Garry Oreskovik said that the flooding presented another challenge to the bee population, which had already reduced in numbers as a result of chemical use and parasite infestation. With the loss of bees, Oreskovik pointed out that the production of food will be affected, given that one out of three bites of the food we consume is a product of bee pollination.
Meanwhile in Manatee County, Myakka’s Gold Apiary owner and seasoned beekeeper Jim Cutway reported that around 4 million bees in 50 colonies were killed during the hurricane. He predicted that 2018 would see a shortage of oranges, blueberries, and other fruits, which translates to higher costs for a lot of American consumers.
Cutway said that wild bees are in a constant battle to survive, and while extreme weather changes are one cause, Varroa Mites are also part of that struggle. These insects are parasites that have been infecting bees causing a decline in the lifespan of bees and pollination.
Many other apiary owners and beekeepers joined the sentiments of Oreskovik and Cutway, saying they have witnessed and experienced poor production of honey. Each year, honey production continues to lessen, from 300 barrels a decade ago to only 40 barrels in 2017.
Bee Health: On a Steady Decline
While climate change threatens many species, bees and other pollinators have garnered special attention because of the important role they play in agriculture. Various environmental groups have strongly called for an expansion in the habitats of pollinators. According to the White House, the work of bees adds $15 billion in value in agriculture by pollinating vegetables, nuts, and fruits.
Animals of the many kinds have ways to adapt to a changing climate — and that is by migration. They travel towards the Earth’s poles to survive, an activity that bees don’t do. Research on bees claims that although they can travel, migrating to survive may not have occurred due the complex nature of setting up a hive in a new area.
Colony Collapse Disorder
Climate change is causing an abnormal rise and fall in temperature; causing bees to miss pollination. As bees are extremely sensitive to extreme weather, they are unable to adapt.
Climate change has also caused flowers to bloom earlier, leaving bees unable to pollinate in time, and resulting in the inadequate supply of nectar for hives to use during the colder months. This mismatch negatively affects the health of bees and inhibits their ability to pollinate and produce.