Celebrate National Honey Bee Day!
Friday, August 15, 2014
By: Becky Langer-Curry, Bayer CropScience NA Bee Health Project Manager
As we approach National Honey Bee Day on Saturday, August 16, it is appropriate that we not only celebrate the importance of bees to the food we eat and to the communities where we live and play, but also recognize the considerable progress that has been made toward improving bee health in 2014. Yes, you read that correctly – there is good news about bee health!
The truth is, honey bee colonies are increasing, not declining. Worldwide, the number of managed honey bee colonies has increased by 45% over the past 50 years. The number of colonies in the United States dropped like a rock following World War II when honey was no longer needed as a sugar substitute. Another major decline occurred in the 1980s when the invasive parasite known as the Varroa mite invaded North American colonies. Since the 1990s, however, the number of colonies has remained fairly stable in the U.S. and has increased by more than 40% in Canada.
Many experts use the USDA’s annual winter loss survey of beekeepers as a barometer of honey bee health. In recent years, the losses coming out of winter were alarmingly high, averaging nearly 30%, and almost twice the level considered normal. This year’s survey found that overwintering losses declined significantly when compared to 2013. Winter losses in Canada and Europe declined as well, with the European losses reaching their lowest levels since the surveys began in 2007. We’re not out of the woods yet, but this is good news to all concerned about bee health.
Recent attention paid to honey bee health has galvanized the efforts of scientists, governments, industries, farmers, beekeepers and others seeking solutions to problems facing these important pollinators. This year, Congress and the White House stepped up their engagement on behalf of bee health and while much work remains to be done, the collaborative efforts by many organizations, nonprofits and stakeholders are beginning to pay off.
For more than 25 years, Bayer has been committed to environmental stewardship and the protection of beneficial insects, including honey bees. Our scientists are conducting incredibly innovative research to help find solutions to the many problems facing beekeepers. Our new North American Bee Care Center is up and running, advancing collaborative research and education. We’ve already welcomed more than 1,300 visitors to the Center and are fully booked for the immediate future. Also, our Bee Ambassadors now number more than 400 employees throughout the U.S. and Canada, each of whom are trained to help promote the importance of pollinators.
We still face challenges. While the factors affecting bee health are many and complex, we should not be discouraged – the good news about honey bees is real and if we work together, it can get even better.
Becky Langer-Curry, Bayer CropScience NA Bee Health Project Manager