It’s well known that bees are dying off, and scientists still can’t explain exactly why. Likely causes include parasites, diseases, and pesticides. But in many cases, the bees simply vanish, never to return to the hive. Whatever the causes, the consequences are major. In the U.S., beekeepers on average lost 29% of their honey bee colonies last year.
Since farms depend on these commercial bee colonies to pollinate their crops, there’s a lot at stake. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that bees are responsible for $15 billion worth of crops every year. To put that in perspective, the USDA says, “about one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.”
The future of commercial beekeeping is uncertain, and it’s not clear that today’s farms can be sustained without it. One possible alternative is to rely on native bees from the area surrounding a farm, rather than renting vast numbers of hives. But native bees don’t currently exist in numbers large enough to take over the amount of pollinating that we’ve come to need.
Are you an Oregon farmer who relies on bees to pollinate your crops? How does this decline in the bee population affect you? How might farming need to change, in order to adapt to the loss of honey bees?
- Roy Malensky: President of the Oregon Berry Packing Company
- Charlie Mock: President of Mountain Meadow Honey Inc.
- Ramesh Sagili: Assistant Professor of Horticulture at Oregon State University
- Mace Vaughan: Pollinator Program Director at the Xerces Society