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

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.