In A Nutshell
Honeybee colonies have been dwindling in number for years, and nobody’s sure why. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, failure to find an explanation could threaten the world’s food supply.
The Whole Bushel
In 2006, commercial beekeepers began reporting that their colonies were dying off in a way they had never seen before. Adult, male worker bees were simply abandoning the hive, for no discernible reason, and wandering off to die. Mortality rates in commercial beekeeping, once consistent at 10-15 percent, were now approaching 30-35 percent, and it was in no way clear why this was happening.
Years later, it still is not. A 2013 report by the US Department of Agriculture indicated that years of study has failed to find more than common-sense possible explanations—parasites, pesticides, viruses, or some combination thereof—for why the number of bee colonies in the US has plummeted from about six million to about two million since 2006.
Why is this relevant? Well, that translates to lost revenue of about $200 billion per year in lost crops. It turns out that pollinating crops—a worker bee’s primary purpose in life—is difficult and costly to do by hand. We humans depend on bees and other pollinating species for about one-third of the global food supply.