Claim: Climate Change will kill the bees

Only hardier species can adapt to global warming

Story submitted by Eric Worrall

Another claim that its worse than we thought – this time warmer temperatures are killing the bees.

According to Scott Groom, PhD student at Flinders University, mathematical modelling has connected changes in bee populations over the past 20,000 years across the South Pacific region, and exceptionally large declines in bee populations, with changes in temperature.

Groom says that prior to the ice age when temperatures rose, many bee species migrated to cooler areas, with only one hardy species able to adapt to the warmer temperature.

“They’re almost canaries in the coal mine, you can see that they’re going to be the first sort of species to be impacted by changes in climate,” Groom said.

The study, “Parallel responses of bees to Pleistocene climate change in three isolated archipelagos of the southwestern Pacific” can be found at the link below.


The impacts of glacial cycles on the geographical distribution and size of populations have been explored for numerous terrestrial and marine taxa. However, most studies have focused on high latitudes, with only a few focused on the response of biota to the last glacial maximum (LGM) in equatorial regions. Here, we examine how population sizes of key bee fauna in the southwest Pacific archipelagos of Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa have fluctuated over the Quaternary. We show that all three island faunas suffered massive population declines, roughly corresponding in time to the LGM, followed by rapid expansion post-LGM. Our data therefore suggest that Pleistocene climate change has had major impacts across a very broad tropical region. While other studies indicate widespread Holarctic effects of the LGM, our data suggest a much wider range of latitudes, extending to the tropics, where these climate change repercussions were important. As key pollinators, the inferred changes in these bee faunas may have been critical in the development of the diverse Pacific island flora. The magnitude of these responses indicates future climate change scenarios may have alarming consequences for Pacific island systems involving pollinator-dependent plant communities and agricultural crops.

I don’t have access to the full text, so I don’t know whether other possible causes of population crashes, such as bee killing Varroa mites, were considered. .

Varroa mites were originally discovered in Asia, but have since spread worldwide. Some bees are resistant to Varroa mites, because they have evolved hygiene behaviour, which removes and kills the mites.


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Here’s hoping it wipes out those killer bees. The author of this article was likely pushing that story a few years ago.


I stopped reading after, ” … mathematical modelling … “


I remember being in West Timor discharging petrol and paraffin, and there was a wild bee colony on the little cliff just a few hundred yards from the dock. The local youths made pocket money from climbing the cliff and gathering the honey. We bought some and it was the sweetest thing we’ve ever tasted, although we had to filter out the bees feet that came in the honey. Well, you never know how often the bees washed their feet.
West Timor is not a cold place.


My son is a beekeeper in Rhode Island. This past winter killed off his hive. ‘Nuff said.


do a TV series about bees dying, and see how many watch.
There is such a thing as alarm overload (crying wolf), and the threshhold of response is raised, necessitating a higher level of alarm. Ho will they achieve that, because we are at alarm saturation already.


Why have “local” and “pocket money” suddenly turned blue?

Doug Proctor

Honey bees are a European import. The Native Americans saw honey bees as a sign that the White Man was closing in on their lands. The loss of honey bees in North America would return that part of the ecology to how it was pre-occupation/invasion (PC thinking, right?).
The perfect climate, the perfect environment, the perfect ecology, was the one you had before you were old enough to recognize the negatives.


For the love of God. Why don’t these clowns make it easy on themselves and us by just tell us what climate change WON’T affect.


It is indeed “worse than we thought” (TM).


Clear case of “find something that’s already happening”, “attribute it to my cause”, and prove your cause is true by letting nature run its course.

Keith Sketchley

Well, no shortage of theories, most of them anti-human.
May vary with location.
But last I heard the most plausible causes of substantial deaths in North America were parasites.
Antidotes included squeaky clean housekeeping (bee keepers tend to just re-use hives without cleaning, some went away from plastic parts for reasons I did not grasp) and taking extra steps to avoid exposure to chemicals (to minimize stress on bees thus maximize their own resistance to parasites).
A large proportion of beehives are moved around to pollinate different crops at the optimum time, such as fruit orchards. Farmers can coordinate with Beekeepers to spray chemicals when bees are elsewhere.
Even static hives can be somewhat protected by only spraying in calm conditions, often at dawn, that’s done for general reasons anyway, bee exposure is then only from contact with flowers. (I don’t know when spraying is needed, if at other than flowering time then contact exposure will be minimal as bees will be visiting other fields at the time.)
This forum may have old articles on that.


What? South Pacific islands, and no mention of bees drowning because of rising sea level?

Anna Keppa

As with other such scary claims, the obvious question is: how did the bees not succumb to warmer temperatures in the past? And why is it that only future temperature increases, and not those of the past hundred fifty years, will kill them off?


Gee, I wondered how the bees coped in the Eemian interglacial, 125,000 years ago, when average temperatures in the tropical zone was 2 C higher than it is today.


Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa…which have the highest rates of agro-deforestation

Matt Skaggs

“Only hardier species can adapt to global warming”
Maybe so. When it hit 13F in Seattle in early February after a warm January, the majority of the native pollinators in my yard were wiped out. Fortunately a hive of native bees survived under the eaves of my shed or I would have spent the spring in the orchard with a paintbrush!


Time to invest in Honey Futures…..the kids ain’t gonna know what a bee looks like.


So let me review, shall we? 1) They can accurately count bees over the past 20k years. 2) They can accurately determine temps in placed w/o ice cores and stuff for the last 20k years. 3) There were variations in temps, large ones, all before human activity.
Only one of those I can believe… and I’m pretty sure I’m not looking at it in the way the author would hope?
Another classic example of “let’s get funding for something we wish to study by tying it to Global Warming.”


My bees like warm weather much better than cold weather. I lost a hive this past, very cold, winter, but beekeepers who live far north of me successfully overwinter bees. One of the regular speakers at our beekeepers association is an entomologist at the University of Kansas who studies tropical bee colonies in South America and Africa, where bees seem to do just fine.

“In this piece, author Shawn Regan, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana drops a data bombshell from a USDA report — bee colonies are just fine”


To Paraphrase Robert Armstrong (as Carl Denham in “King Kong”, 1933): “Oh no, it wasn’t the climate. It was mathematical modeling killed the bees.”


Ah whatever…
maybe they can add this to the list of things that are used to strip you of your private property rights ; and that does include intellectual property. hint hint, wink wink.


“ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom comments, “Along with many other folks not deeply involved in this subject,I just assumed , based on the widespread media reports, that there were serious problems with bees dying en masse. Indeed, just being outside in the spring seemed to reinforce this. It sure looked like there were fewer bees around in the last few years. Or were my observations colored by the news? I guess, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, this explanation is at least as plausible as any of the others. Maybe more so.”

Alan Robertson

Honey bees are busy in my garden and don’t mind that I work beside them. There are many species of bees and pollinators in my garden, along with many predatory insects, including Red Wasps. The wasps and I continue a truce of some years, as they live in a small hole in my workshop wall and come out each Spring to prey on Tomato Hornworms and the like. They don’t whack me and I don’t whack them (fingers crossed.) They are a very curious species, as every time I bring in a new flat of plants, or materials to expand the beds, or any tools or anything new, really, they fly around closely inspecting the new presence in their world. Their behavior makes me think that there is far more intelligence and memory possessed by such small creatures than we know.


I wonder how Mr.Bombus polaris feels about all this.


We enjoy an incredible diversity of life on planet earth. Over millennia the climate has varied by +/- 5 degrees or more. I can only conclude that wildlife adapts and evolves to meet changing conditions – so why the fuss??

Mike Ozanne

“Here’s hoping it wipes out those killer bees. The author of this article was likely pushing that story a few years ago.”
The ones that came from Africa?


“They’re almost canaries in the coal mine, you can see that they’re going to be the first sort of species to be impacted by changes in climate,” Groom said.

Now where have I heard about these global warming canaries? This PHD student has a lot to learn.
Hold onto your hats.

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Toronto Star Newspapers – Mar 21 2007
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USA Today – May 31, 2006
Sea change coming for Everglades; Florida village stands as ‘canary in the coal mine’
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USA Today – 30 May 2005
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…This is very clearly the canary in the coal mine in terms of climate change for this region,” he said…
Sun Sentinel – June 25, 1997
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Christian Science Monitor – March 4, 2010
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The Environmental Magazine – October 31, 2004
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Science Direct – February 2011
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Well they can’t be talking about honeybees – a cold winter can wreak havoc, as the this winter did to mine and many other michigan apiaries.
The abstract has keyword “Lasioglossum” and halictine bees, the sweat bees, so I’m assuming that they are referring to smaller non-social “native” pollinators.
Interesting that this report has nothing to do with our current CO2 “emergency” – just that bee populations change as the climate changes. Well duh. So does everything.

Kelvin Vaughan

So does that mean a Bee tax is on the cards?


I guess using “mathematical modelling” obviates the need to actually talk to beekeepers.


Jimbo….here in UK we’ve closed our coalmines…canarys are endangered here as a result…damn this climate change.


“We show that all three island faunas suffered massive population declines, roughly corresponding in time to the LGM, followed by rapid expansion post-LGM.”
This isn’t about any current crashes. THE BEES ARE DOING JUST FINE NOW.
“The magnitude of these responses indicates future climate change scenarios may have alarming consequences for Pacific island systems involving pollinator-dependent plant communities and agricultural crops.”
So based on more computer models of what they think happened in the past, they think that the populations could crash.
Did I mention that based on the short abstract, this study has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CURRENT STATE OF THE BEES ON THE ISLANDS?
TROPILAELAPS mite, varroa mites, and tracheal mites are all far more threatening to bees. As well as nosema, collony collapse, pesticides…oh and JAPANESE HORNETS!

Mark Bofill

That’s quite the flock of canaries Jimbo. Thanks.

Adam Bacon

These sorts of studies are the inevitable result of perverse economic incentives. If you’re a scientist and want to do a study on bees (and get paid for it), simply add a climate change angle and, presto, instant funding!

Julian Williams in Wales

Well the bees round here love the warmth and sunshine.

more soylent green!

Is there only one bee species that can survive in hot climates? African bees came from hot, humid climates but seem to have few problems with less humid climates. However, they aren’t well adapted to the cold and I’m pretty sure we’ve seen studies that say more global warming will further the spread of Africanized bees.
I live in Las Vegas and at every farmer’s market there are many booths selling local honey from bees here in the Mojave desert. So clearly bees can live in hot, dry climates as well.
Once again we’ve discovered there’s academia and the wonderful models they love to create and then there is the real, physical world will works on an entirely different set of rules.

Ex-expat Colin

Canaries WTF…Nurse, NURSE – pass the AK47 quick
Bees…time to dig up the old monks I think? Here in UK they suffer alright, likely from not enough over winter feed. And that frost thing at the right time to catch them out. Add in the odd disease.
Since we via the EU have f*cked up farming so much, nobody cares it seems. Or sort of cares.
Old Bombus seems to do alright here.


As a beekeeper I call this pretty much hogwash. We all know our bees will prefer warmer summers and milder winters. Bees are, or have been, a pretty hardy bunch. Colony collapse disorder is happening worldwide ( but most prevalent in the continental US ).
There are a number of reasons for this and they are all compounded by each other. Sure there is a parasite problem, but your normal healthy colony can usually fight this off. However the use of more and more varied pesticides and fungicides is reducing the bees ability to fight disease and infestation. An auto immune deficiency if you will. ( Pettis et al Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae )
People like Doug Proctor should be careful what they wish for. $30Bn of US agricultural economy relies upon the pollination of bees. Without them things like the California almond crop would collapse in short order. The irony is that it’s the very practices of this agriculture are killing off the colonies that it relies upon for its very existence.
A warmer climate is the least of the bees worries and would probably be one less stress upon them. There is a very great danger that we are going to lose the majority of colonies in the short term future. 60% of commercial US colonies have already died in the last decade or so.

Bees dying is just more evidence that the climate is warming, and that man is doing it with CO2. The greater the disaster, the stronger the proof. That’s Post Modern Science.

V. Uil

I guess we can say that Jimbo was clearly giving the warmists the bird.


When I read “mathematical modelling” my BS meter pegged. Did this paper come from one of those DIY paper generators?


Jimbo, you should have just listed what ISN”T a canary in the coal mine, would have been a much shorter list for sure!

i must be reading this backward from everyone else. The study says:
We show that all three island faunas suffered massive population declines, roughly corresponding in time to the LGM, followed by rapid expansion post-LGM.
In other words:
Cold = less bees
Warm = more bees

Reminds me of a chilly spring day in Italy’s Cinque Terre some 25 years ago. My friend and I were hiking along the shore, and the footpath was covered with bees, you just could not help stomping on them. Apparently, they had left their hives in the morning, when it had been warmer, and as the thermometer fell below some critical temperature, they could not move their wings fast enough any more to stay in the air and thus dropped to the ground.
That must have been an extreme weather event, brought about by global warming.


This paper is an example of the terrible impacts of dimming: Climate obsession has dimmed the intelligence of the authors, editors and peer reviewers. They are now dullards who are incapable of critical thinking, and in their dimness are only able to repeat the mantra, “worse than we thought”.

daniel heyer

As a beekeeper myself, this article seems way off-base. Bees are native to warm environments, and the bee species most favored by beekeepers come from warm Mediterranean environments. These species are stressed by cold winters – one of the reasons that Russian bees are becoming popular in North America even though they are less honey-productive.
Given the difficulty collecting data about current bee populations it seems inconceivable we could extrapolate anything useful about the Pliestocene!
I think a much more immediate threat to bees is the suspected impact of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Mark Bofill

davidmhoffer says:

May 9, 2014 at 9:24 am
i must be reading this backward from everyone else. The study says:
We show that all three island faunas suffered massive population declines, roughly corresponding in time to the LGM, followed by rapid expansion post-LGM.
In other words:
Cold = less bees
Warm = more bees

With apologies for stealing someone else’s joke:
Tiljander, baby, Tiljander. You haven’t heard? Down is the new up.


Be fair now, there are many species of canary….
Luuurve your work by the way…


Little known fact …

Western honey bees are not native to the Americas. American colonists imported honey bees from Europe for their honey and wax. Their value as pollinators began to be appreciated by the end of the nineteenth century. The first honey bee subspecies imported were likely European dark bees. Later Italian bees, Carniolan honey bees and Caucasian bees were added.
Econtalk had an interesting episode on bees, beekeeping and Coase …

Wally Thurman of North Carolina State University and PERC talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the world of bees, beekeepers, and the market for pollination. Thurman describes how farmers hire beekeepers to pollinate their crops and how that market keeps improving crop yields and producing honey. Thurman then discusses how beekeepers have responded to Colony Collapse Disorder–a not fully understood phenomenon where colonies disband, dramatically reducing the number of bees. The discussion closes with the history of bee pollination as an example of a reciprocal externality and how Coase’s insight helps understand how the pollination market.