Why Are the Bees Disappearing?

Over the years, many scientists have indicated that the number of bees is decreasing. All the latest studies from the last three years left us wondering why are the bees disappearing. Unfortunately, this is one of the consequences of our actions, showing humans that every bad decision regarding the environment will at some point turn against us. In what follows, we will provide a few factors that contribute to the extinction of bees.

Why Are the Bees Disappearing?


Every year, we use huge amounts of pesticides, spraying it on our food, especially in North America. Pesticides were not only related to lots of dangerous human diseases, but they are also responsible for a huge die off in the global population of bees from the past few years. A study from Harvard University which was published in 2014 in the Bulletin of Insectology shows that neonicotinoids reached to kill bees at a very high rate.

Furthermore, scientists indicate that these insecticides represent the direct cause of the colony collapse disorder (CCD). This study’s results reinforce the idea that the sublethal exposure to neonicotinoids represents the first reason why CCD occurred. When developing this study, specialists have looked at 18 different bee colonies from three different apiaries located in Massachusetts. Their analysis took them a year to develop.

Scientists treated four colonies at every apiary with some doses of neonicotinoid insecticides while they left untreated six beehives. The strong effect of this pesticide wiped out 6 of the 12 hives which received considerable neonicotinoid doses. These insecticides remain for a long time in planter exhaust material that is produced while crops are planted.

Dennis vanEngelsdorp is an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland. He indicates that over the last three decades bees experienced serious challenges. VanEngelsdorp is also the project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. A recent survey indicates that almost 5,000 beekeepers in the US lost a third of the bees they had between April 2016 and March 2017.

Poor nutrition

Another factor that triggers massive die off in the global population of bees is poor nutrition. Honey bees usually collect nectar and pollen for the entire colony. These transform into honey and bees feed their larvae with it. However, when, they do not find any natural sources to collect nectar and pollen, it becomes harder to find the food they need.

Hence, the colony as a whole will be affected. Furthermore, massive surface of lands which served as natural meadows transformed into farm fields dominated by pesticides. About ten years ago, the Bee Informed Partnership started studying colony collapse disorder, a very common phenomenon affecting bees at a global level. The colony collapse disorder indicates that the majority of bee-workers in a colony leave their queen.

Many bees in a hive

The population of bees decreases because of environmental stress and poor nutrition.

VanEngelsdorp claims that the study related to colony collapse disorder helped them see the fast pace at which colonies are dying off. He argues that one out of three bites of food we take is indirectly or directly pollinated by honeybees. Therefore, we need to acknowledge the importance of bees as crucial pollinators which pollinate our crops.

Without them, the world will starve because, either directly or indirectly, the food production would be affected. Hence, we need to have a viable and movable pollination supply to be able to eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Varroa Mites and other viruses

The Varroa mite started infesting the colonies of honey bees in the mid-1980s when it first appeared in Florida. The European honeybee comprises almost all honeybee races in North America. Unfortunately, the European honeybee is not immune to viruses like the varroa mite. Furthermore, various types of viruses have been spreading at a faster pace than expected in the last three decades.

This is because they get transmitted very quickly among mites. Scientists indicate that 20 years ago, 20 mites found among a hundred bees represented a concern. But now, 3 mites among 100 bees bear the same level of threat. Mites represent one of the most crucial problems regarding the global bee population.

VanEngelsdorp argues that before the varroa mite spread all over the globe, beekeepers thought that it’s a tragedy when they lose 10% of their bees over the winter. Back in the 1970s, losing 10% of your bees was impossible, being considered a very high rate of loss. After varroa mites have spread, the rate of loss increased to at least 15%. Nevertheless, specialists noticed lower levels of mites in the fall of 2016.

This may be due to an essential oil used in mite control products. This ingredient usually breaks down when exposed to hot temperatures. During the milder winter, it has stayed put.

Environmental stressors

Specialists indicate that another factor which determined CCD might be environmental stressors. Hence, the limited access to clean water and the lack of diverse pollen influence the development of colonies. This is how real nutrition is one of the factors for bee mortality. Air pollution and water pollution affects the main sources of food and drink respectively.

Air pollution affects plants which usually represent the main source of pollen. Furthermore, water pollution is also harmful since bees tend to drink water from every water source they find in nature. If the water is polluted with chemicals or garbage, bees may suffer. Generally, air pollution appears due to climate change’s greenhouse gas emission. The CO2 and methane gas pollution is the most dangerous one since these gases may take hundreds of years to disappear from our atmosphere.

Due to the lack of pollen and nectar sources, beekeepers tend to move the beehives around in huge trucks, trying to find healthy food for them. When this happens, bees may get overcrowded, suffering because of this. Furthermore, the spread of suburbs cut down on the natural forage areas. Hence, some of the colonies have to migrate to cities. There, they may sometimes drink contaminated water, compromising their immune system.

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Summing up

All these factors indicate why are the bees disappearing, raising awareness regarding the global decreasing bee population. Without pollinators, the whole world will starve since we wouldn’t be able to grow the crops which necessitate pollination.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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