The honeybee story begins on November 2006, when an American beekeeper in Florida called Dave Hackenberg discovered that more than half of his hives were left lifeless. Many beekeepers around this same region also reported heavy honeybee losses, and soon this was dubbed fall dwindle disease but was quickly renamed as colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Soon after in the UK, in January 2007, the chair of the London Beekeepers Association, John Chapple, loses most of his bees to what he calls the "Marie Celeste Syndrome" but is discovered to be CCD.
In April 2007, Taiwan reports that 10 million of their honeybees have disappeared, Canada reports 30% honeybee mortality (twice the normal winter rate), but the government attribute it to severe weather and not CCD. Germany, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, the Netherlands, Slovania, Italy, Belgium and Poland all report severe losses.
In July 2007, almost a quarter of beekeeping businesses have been struck by CCD, and the USDA later confirms that CCD has killed off a third of all honeybee colonies in the USA.
Some primary suspects for CCD include poor nutrition, pesticides such as neonictinoids, GM crops, the vicious parasite Nosema cerenae, the varroa destructor mite, the Israeli acute paralysis virus and stress of being transported. Scientists believe that CCD could be a combination of all of these, or there might be something completely different that scientists have not yet concieved.
But why should it matter that the honeybees are dying out? I mean, surely the worst of consequences are that there will be no more honey to spread on our toast? Surely nothing that bad could happen? Isn't it actually rather good that honeybees are dying out, for that is one less insect to sting us?
Sadly, this is not the case. Honey represents only a mere fiftieth of the economic importance of bees. Their main job in the environment is to pollinate plants. Without them, we would have to pollinate plants by hand, or the entire plant population will perish.
This is catastrophic news for all of us. Havoc will be wreaked with the whole of the food chain, millions upon thousands of species will die out - only few, very few would survive.
In fact, scientists estimate that if the honeybees die out, the rest of humanity will follow within a mere two years, and if you look at the facts, it's hardly surprising.
Now, in 2015, there is a world food depletion because the bees are dying out. That is how serious it is. So, has the really serious stuff started to happen already? Is this now the beginning of the end? Perhaps we can do something to change this fate...or are we too late?
The US has now lost over 70% of it's honeybee colonies over the past two winters. Losses in the UK are now at a rate of 30% -in 2003 it was a mere 6%.
This page has focused a lot on honeybees (Apis mellifera), but what about our other native bee, the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) ? Unfortunately, these bees are no better off than the honeybee. In the US, bumblebee numbers have collapsed dramatically since the 1990s, killed off by pesticides.
Since 1980, the once common large garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus) has been recorded at fewer than 10 sites in the UK.
The potentially incoming bee extinction is much, much worse than the other catastrophe that news reporters and scientists are burbling out - global warming. (Of course, global warming is still a very important issue - but is it more important than saving the bees?) Unlike global warming, however, the bee losses have not insipred governments or the UN to take expensive or indeed, sufficent action to forstall it.
So, what is the fate of our bees, and our beautiful planet with it's ecosystems? Will it all perish? Or is there a way to stop it? Can we, perhaps, help the bees thrive as they once did? What if people don't want to help the bees, because they don't like bees and they are unaware of the environmental impact they have? If you want to take part in the race to stop bees from extinction, please visit the How You Can Help page. Thank you.