This Winter Was One of The Worst Ever For Bees

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 29 2013 11:43 AM

This Winter Was One of The Worst Ever For Bees

164636477
A bee feeds on a flowering Anigozanthus plant, also known as Kangaroo Paws, at a nursery in San Gabriel, California on March 25, 2013

Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Beekeepers in the U.S. say that, in just one year, as many as half of their hives have vanished. It's due to colony collapse disorder, which has been around for several years. But this year's loss is much worse than it's been in at least the past few decades.

According to today's New York Times story on the drop, between 40 and 50 percent of hives in the care of commercial beekeepers disappeared last year. For perspective, beekeepers have become accustomed to losing about a third of their hives yearly since the onset of colony collapse disorder. Before then, just 5 to 10 percent of hives would typically be lost each winter. While the Agriculture Department will give their official report on bee populations in May, experts aren't waiting until then to characterize this season as unprecedented.

Advertisement

Since there's no conclusive explanation for the disorder, there's not much beekeepers can do to prevent it. The Times does note, however, that there's one explanation for the declining populations currently gaining traction: 

"But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor. The pesticide industry disputes that. But its representatives also say they are open to further studies...The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths."

Other explanations include drought, viruses, and bee mites, though none of them seem to comprehensively explain what's going on. Read the full story at the New York Times.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.