Bee population decline has been blamed for the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) for years. In turn, the CCD has also been linked to various causes, such as pesticide use, varroa mites, migratory beekeeping, and genetically-modified crops.
However, a new survey conducted on beekeepers across the United States revealed another possible reason why the bee-loss rate increased: climate change.
Climate Change and the Bee Population
A study conducted by experts at the University of Maryland and the Auburn University have uncovered the significance of climate change to the increasing bee-loss rates in the United States.
Based on survey results, beekeepers across the country saw 40 percent of their colonies have unexpectedly perished in just one year. This data was found to be 33 percent higher compared to the numbers the annual survey gathered a year earlier.
According to the scientists behind the survey, the erratic changes of the weather, including the autumn season that was marked by hurricanes and followed by an abnormal rise fall of temperature and frequency of storms during the winter, may have contributed to the colony losses they recorded for the past year. This is because bee feeding and foraging patterns rely on the weather and other factors in the environment, which means climate change have put the pollinators on the edge.
Other Causes of Bee Death
While climate change is only gaining attention as a major cause of bee death recently, various factors are already made known to mankind but are still threatening the pollinators.
- Parasites and Bacteria
Parasites known as varroa mites have long been deemed as the biggest threat to various species of bees. In fact, it is considered as one of the possible causes of CCD. One survey that garnered nearly 4,800 responses from beekeepers taking care of 175,000 colonies across the U.S. states and territories revealed that backyard beekeepers saw as much as 46 percent of losses within one year. These are people who cater no more than 50 hives.
- Beekeeping Practices
According to experts, poor beekeeping practices have also contributed to bee-loss rates over the recent years. The fact that untrained people split or combine hives, apply harmful chemicals to tame the buzzers, and use antibiotics to get rid of parasites and pathogens without consulting specialists are enough to cause CCD, said the experts. However, it is important to note that these practices need further review before they can be declared harmful to bees.
- Lack of Genetic Biodiversity
Genetic biodiversity has certain benefits for pollinators like bees. In fact, almost every single queen bee in the U.S. come from a limited genetic pool of breeder queens that put many honeybees at higher risk of acquiring diseases. This may also cause them to be targeted by pests like varroa mites.
GMCs or genetically modified crops also play a role in the bee population decline. According to some scientists, pollen from these plants may contain toxins. More specifically, a genetically modified corn that have been changed so that it would produce toxin known as Bacillus thuringiensis have been found to be harmful to bees. However, this theory remains unconfirmed as not all hives with bees pollinating this type of GMC has succumbed to CCD. Still, this factor is worth noting as there are some theories that exposure to the toxin have cause bees to be more susceptible to a fungus called Nosema.
- Migratory Beekeeping
Many beekeepers make a living by renting out their hives to farmers to help pollinate crops. However, the transportation from one place to another can cause stress to bees, especially since their orientation to their hive is vital for their survival.
- Harmful Gardening Chemicals
Gardening chemicals like pesticides have been known to kill more than pests. With that said, several studies conducted on these chemicals revealed that it may be one of the leading causes of CCD and bee death.