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Why The Death Of 37 Million Bees Matters To You

Honeybees are dying at astronomical rates in the United States, Canada, and Europe, a phenomenon which could potentially have dire effects on the world economy and agricultural ecosystem.

Posted on July 8, 2013, at 5:33 p.m. ET

Ontario beekeeper David Schuit recently reported the death of over 37 million bees (approximately 600 hives) during the month of June.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Note: Pictured above is J & P Apiary and Gentzel's Bees, Honey and Pollination Company

This announcement came just two weeks after the unexpected death of over 25,000 bumblebees in the parking lot of the Wilsonville, Ore., Target.


This photo provided by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation shows some of the thousands of dead and dying bees found in the parking lot of a shopping center in Wilsonville, Ore.

The presumed cause of these deaths is a relatively recent phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

First reported in 2006, CCD has been attributed to the rapid loss of approximately 33% of commercial honeybees from 2006–2011.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

This relatively high number — in comparison to an average loss of 10–15% — has many frightening implications for both the ecosystem and the larger world economy.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The USDA estimates that about one in every three bites of food is either directly or indirectly made possible because of bee pollination.

Blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on honeybees for pollination.

Via Shutterstock

Almonds — for which California alone produces 80% of the world's supply — are entirely dependent on honeybee pollination during bloom time.


As CCD continues to ravage commercial honeybee populations, scientists and governments are now stepping in to help determine the cause of this startling phenomenon.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Some studies point to neonictonoids (pesticides) as the potential cause behind CCD, though the evidence remains largely inconclusive.

Via Shutterstock

According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, neonicotinoids can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. And though there is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoids and CCD, recent research suggests that neonicotinoids may make honeybees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens, including the intestinal parasite Nosema, which has been implicated as one causative factor in CCD.

In an effort to help determine what is causing CCD, the European Commission opted, in April, to ban the use of three pesticides belonging to the neonictonoid family for three years beginning Dec. 31, 2013.

Though in 2007 the USDA established a special committee to tackle the issue of CCD, they currently have no plans to ban the use of neonictonoids in the United States.


In 2012 the rates of CCD decreased to an average loss of 22% in the winter season. As of now it has yet to be determined what the average losses will be for 2013.

Matt Cardy / Getty Images

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