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Agriculture

It's Been A Bad Year For Honeybees

bee.jpg
Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez
/
Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a rough year for honeybees. A new report shows beekeepers throughout the country lost more than 40 percent of their colonies since April of last year.

Most scientists agree you can’t blame one thing for the drop in honeybee colonies. It’s a domino effect, where one problem like loss of habitat exacerbates others like exposure to pesticides and disease. But the nastiest problem plaguing commercial beekeepers is the tiny, parasitic Varroa mite.

“They literally eat the bees alive,” Amy Toth says.

Both studies honeybee health at Iowa State University.

“They’re quite large,” she says. “For the size of yourself, imagine you have a baseball-size thing crawling around on you, eating you.”

Bees are our tiniest livestock, producing thousands of gallons of honey every year. And many fruit and nut growers also rely on them to pollinate billions of dollars worth of food crops.