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Why Are Bees Dying?

Why Are Bees Dying

Do you consider bees an unwelcome pest? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people are afraid of this small, buzzing, yellow-and-black insect—or, more specifically, scared of its sting. For people who are allergic to bee stings, an encounter with these stinging insects is truly a critical (even life-and-death) event to be avoided. Even for those who aren’t allergic, chances are that you’d rather stay away from bees.

While you may know that bees play an important role in our ecosystem, you may not realize that bee populations worldwide have experienced a significant decline. If you’re among the folks who avoid these little creatures at all costs, that may not sound like such a bad thing. Let’s talk about why bees have been dying, why they’re important to humans and what to do if you find a beehive in or around your home.

Why Are Bees Dying?

In 2011 in Brevard County, Florida, about 12 million bees from over 800 hives died during a period of just a few weeks. Around the same time, news reports trickled in from across the word about similar sudden deaths of honeybees. These reports led to the U.S. government-led initiative to provide funding for farmers and ranchers to help stem the tide of bee decline.

Colony collapse disorder is a term referring to a combination of factors—including parasites, pesticides, poor nutrition and viruses—that together were linked to a widespread dying-off of honeybee colonies in the United States. A certain class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, lethal to bees and widely used in agriculture, received most of the blame. These pesticides shut down the nervous system of insects who feed on treated plants. Bees that live in the wild (as opposed to domesticated honeybee hives) were also found to be in decline, as their natural habitats have been disappearing over time because of urbanization and modern farming practices. Some scientists speculated that bees were dying because of the Varroa mite, which is a parasite which transmits disease and has been known to feed on bees soon after they hatch. Pathogens such as the Nosema fungus, the invertebrate iridescent virus and Israeli acute paralysis disease have also impacted bee populations.

There is some good news, however. A growing awareness about bee decline was widespread in the news. Urban beekeeping and the local food movement have gained popularity, providing both an appreciation for bees and a safe place for them to go. Although colony collapse disorder was a significant problem, in recent years global honeybee populations have rebounded. This may be because the United States and several other countries have outlawed the use of pesticides linked to the spread of the phenomenon. In addition, unlike some more endangered animals, bees are prolific. Queen bees can lay up to 2,000 eggs in one day alone. So while the global bee population peaked in 1989 with about 3.5 million colonies, by 2016, numbers were back up to 2.7 million colonies, up from an all-time low of 2.4 million in 2008.

Why Bees Are Important

Nearly 85% of crops that are grown for human consumption depend on pollination to thrive, and bees are these crops’ main pollinators. Most of the fruits and vegetables that you eat, not to mention many nuts and plants that are used in making cooking oils, depend on bee pollination. Crops pollinated by bees include almonds, apples, avocados, cantaloupes, coffee, cucumbers, grapes, peaches, pears, peppers, strawberries, walnuts and watermelons. Bees aren’t only important for humans, however. Other species, such as small mammals and birds, are also affected, as other insects these animals depend upon can also be killed by neonicotinoids. 

What to Do if You Find a Beehive at Home

Bees can build hives almost anywhere that is out of the way—in the branches of a tree, for example, in your attic or chimney or even within the walls of your home. Open structures like birdhouses, pots, sheds and children’s playhouses are also fair game for bees to set up a home. Beehive removal can be dangerous, so if you find a beehive in your home or yard, and especially if you are allergic to bee stings, it’s best to call in an experienced professional to come handle the problem for you.

Count on ABC To Protect Your Family

ABC is an authority in pest control—and that means our technicians make every effort to remove hives safely in order to protect bees. Our pest control experts understand that bees can pose a threat to families and pets, especially when bee allergies are a factor. We also know that established hives sometimes divide, with smaller swarms splitting off to build new ones. That means if you’ve found one hive in your home or yard, there may be more. Call us to schedule a free inspection of your home and property. We’ll take care of the problem quickly so you can get back to enjoying your bee-free property.

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