This is the phenomenon of the bees dying, disappearing, and abandoning their hives. It is an interesting environmental issue because there isn’t one root cause; rather, there are several components combining to cause CCD. The three main causes are:
Pesticide Usage: Pesticides are chemicals which farmers put on their crops to kill off the pests which would try to eat them. This means more food for us, but it also has a terrible unintended consequence. Neonicotinoid pesticides such as roundup weaken the bees’ immune systems, making them less healthy. Pesticides don’t kill the bees outright unless directly sprayed on them. They enter the bees’ bodies and hives through their food supply (nectar and pollen).
Monoculture farming practices: Monoculture means planting rows and rows of the same type of crop. This leads to less variation in the bees’ diet because they are foraging from predominately the same type of flower. For instance, imagine if a person ate hamburgers for every meal for their entire life, they wouldn’t be very healthy! Eating only one type of food means missing out on all the vitamins, minerals, and proteins needed to be healthy.
Varroa mites: Parasites that infest a beehive, suck the blood of the bee pupae, and spread diseases throughout the hive. (It is a similar parasitic relationship to ticks and mammals with lymes disease).
The first two causes weaken the bees, so if a hive struggling with poor nutrition and pesticides gets infested with mites that are spreading diseases, it is much less likely to recover, and will probably collapse.
The USDA reported a 44% population loss in 2016 (data from managed honey bee hives), showing that contrary to popular belief, bee population loss is continuing to worsen, compared to a 42% loss in 2014. But don’t despair! There are actions we can all take to help
Conservation: The bees need our help now more than ever! Brainstorm things we can all do to help the bees, or check out our individual action section for some ideas!