Back in 2007, Wired Magazine mused:
It’s only slightly less ridiculous than the other bee killing theory that year – cell phones.
I published a story about the loony idea that was proposed by some researcher in Europe about “cell phone radiation may be killing bees”. I pointed out that it was garbage then, as it is now.
In 2012, I published a post saying global warming is off the hook for the issue, due to the discovery of a phorid fly parasite that had been spreading through colonies due in part to the commercial trucking of bees on demand.
Now in a new set of data from USDA, publicized in a story from the Washington Post today, it turns out bee colonies are now at a 20 year high, and that beekeepers have basically solved the problem on their own.
Call off the bee-pocalypse: U.S. honeybee colonies hit a 20-year high
The trouble all began in 2006 or so, when beekeepers first began noticing mysterious die-offs. It was soon christened “colony collapse disorder,” and has been responsible for the loss of 20 to 40 percent of managed honeybee colonies each winter over the past decade.
The math says that if you lose 30 percent of your bee colonies every year for a few years, you rapidly end up with close to 0 colonies left. But get a load of this data on the number of active bee colonies in the U.S. since 1987. Pay particular attention to the period after 2006, when CCD was first documented.
As you can see, the number of honeybee colonies has actually risen since 2006, from 2.4 million to 2.7 million in 2014, according to data tracked by the USDA. The 2014 numbers, which came out earlier this year, show that the number of managed colonies — that is, commercial honey-producing bee colonies managed by human beekeepers — is now the highest it’s been in 20 years.
So if CCD is wiping out close to a third of all honeybee colonies a year, how are their numbers rising? One word: Beekeepers.
A 2012 working paper by Randal R. Tucker and Walter N. Thurman, a pair of agricultural economists, explains that seasonal die-offs have always been a part of beekeeping: they report that before CCD, American beekeepers would typically lose 14 percent of their colonies a year, on average.
So beekeepers have devised two main ways to replenish their stock. The first method involves splitting one healthy colony into two separate colonies: put half the bees into a new beehive, order them a new queen online (retail price: $25 or so), and voila: two healthy hives.
The other method involves simply buying a bunch of bees to replace the ones you lost. You can buy 3 pounds of “packaged” bees, plus a queen, for about $100 or so.
Beekeepers have been doing this sort of thing since the advent of commercial beekeeping.
End of a crisis that never was. Case closed, and climate was never to blame.