June 27, 2016

Massive Loss of Honeybees in Connecticut

The Hartford Courant recently reported that Connecticut lost nearly half of its honeybees during the summer and winter of 2015-2016.  While this is slightly better than the loss of honeybees the state experienced last year (57.5%), it is still above the national average of 44%. The Bee Informed Partnership gathers this data through an annual survey of commercial and small-scale beekeepers. The partnership is a nationwide effort supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to better understand the decline of honeybee colonies.

Scientists believe honeybee colonies are suffering because of: (1) poor nutrition, (2) the loss of habitat, (3) disease, (4) the use of pesticides, (5) parasites (such as Varroa mite), and (6) higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which has decreased the amount of protein in the pollen bees feed on. 

The state legislature recently enacted Public Act 16-17 to address the issue of declining pollinator populations (e.g., bees and butterflies).  Among other things, this act (1) restricts the use of certain types of pesticides called neonicotinoids, (2) requires reports on certain issues related to pollinator health, and (3) allows the Department of Transportation to plant pollinator-friendly flowers and bushes along state highways.

The decline of honeybees may have an impact on our food supply.  According to the Bee Informed Partnership, the economic value of honeybee pollination is between $10 billion and $15 billion per year.  Some crops, such as almonds, are pollinated entirely by honeybees.