According to the Bee Informed Partnership, in 2014 beekeepers across the United States reported the second highest number of losses ever recorded, signaling a serious threat to America’s food supply. Conducted in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the United States Department of Agriculture, the study surveyed 14.5 percent of the 2.74 million managed bee colonies in the country and found that 42.1 percent of bees died between April 2014 and April 2015. Oklahoma reported the highest losses at 63.4 percent, while Hawaii posted the lowest number at 14 percent.
Escalating bee die-offs in recent years have been attributed to the excessive use of neonicotinoids, water-soluble pesticides that affect the ability of bees to forage for nectar and locate flowers. These pesticides may also affect bees’ ability to locate their hives. European countries have taken a strong stance against neonicotinoids, but the U.S. has been slower to act despite a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Obama in June 2014 aimed at establishing a federal strategy to assess the impact of these pesticides on bees and other pollinators.
Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said, “These dire honey bee numbers add to the consistent pattern of unsustainable bee losses in recent years that threatens our food system. The science is clear—we must take action now to protect these essential pollinators from bee-toxic pesticides.”
The Bee Informed study found that summer die-offs were higher than winter die-offs, particularly for commercial beekeepers, at 24.7 percent compared to 19.8 percent in 2013. Small scale beekeepers reported higher winter die-offs.
“Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto make billions from bee-killing pesticide products while masquerading as champions of bee health,” Finck-Haynes said. “Are their profits more important than our food supply? Are they more important than the livelihoods of America’s farmers? The Obama administration must act now to restrict neonicotinoid pesticides that threaten America’s bees, farmers and food security.”