Read Time: 2 minutes

It’s Good News for Honey Bee Health

Great news: the number of U.S. honey bees has risen in 2017 from the number in 2016. 

Over the past several years, honey bees have been facing a hard-to-define threat: colony collapse disorder. Extensive research on the disorder by the USDA has determined that the primary culprit is the Varroa destructor mite, which attaches itself to a host honey bee to leech food and energy until eventual death. 

The honey bee is an important pollinator that keeps biodiversity1 thriving. The honey bees transfer pollen from plant to plant while they go about their own duties, playing a crucial role in the reproductive cycle. Agricultural systems have been shown to maintain good health in the presence of honey bee hives, and certain farmers actually rely on a flourishing beekeeping industry to pollinate certain crops like almonds, apples, blueberries, and grapefruit. 

Modern agriculture has an important stake in honey bee health, not only for the sustainability of farm businesses but also for the cascading effect on biodiversity that significant losses of hives would inevitably cause. There are a few ways modern agriculture researchers, scientists, and farmers are helping. One is by developing a biologically derived additive for honey bee food that will help them resist the effects of the destructive Varroa. Researchers are also exploring ways to curb the reproduction of Varroa mites themselves. 

Digital tools can also help farmers consider the impact of their farm practices on honey bees. One app allows the grower to input certain management decisions and, using accumulated data, receive a prediction on the impact those decisions will have on honey bee health. 

Honey bees are responsible for pollinating one in three bites of food we eat, so ensuring their health is key to securing a sustainable future. The good news is that modern agriculture is paying attention and putting forth effort to help the species—and it appears that this increased awareness is having a positive effect. 

This article, “Bees Are Bouncing Back from Colony Collapse Disorder,” was originally published on Bloomberg.com.

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