Should We Really Be Worried About ‘Beepocalypse’?

A recent USDA survey indicates the number of honey-producing colonies is the highest it’s been in decades.

by Dani Yokhna

Should We Really Be Worried About ‘Beepocalypse’? (

We’ve been told many times since 2006 that our honeybees are dying and that the effects of that fact will be dire. It could mean the decrease in (or even the loss of) income for farmers who depend on honey production or pollination of crops. UVM scientist Taylor Ricketts also said, “The take-home is: pollinator declines can really matter to human health, with quite scary numbers for vitamin A deficiencies, for example, which can lead to blindness and increase death rates for some diseases, including malaria.”

These possibilities put many in the farming world into full beepocalypse fear, especially since it has been reported that managed honeybee colonies have declined 20 to 40 percent in the last 10 years (and if it continues, there could be none left in a very short period of time). Formally known as “colony collapse disorder,” beepocalypse even inspired the White House to take action, setting forth a 64-page policy framework strategy for saving honeybees and other pollinators, The Washington Post reports.

However, in a recent honey production survey conducted by the USDA, the number of “commercial honey-producing bee colonies managed by human beekeepers is now the highest it’s been in 20 years,” The Washington Post Reports. When the colony collapse disorder was first noted in 2006 the number was at 2.4 million. As of 2014, it had risen to 2.7 million.

This doesn’t mean that colony collapse disorder doesn’t exist or isn’t any kind of threat. It just means that beekeepers have gotten creative when it comes to replenishing their managed colonies. According to The Washington Post, beekeepers have been utilizing two different methods. They either split a healthy colony into two colonies by filling a new beehive with half the bees from the original beehive and ordering a new queen on the Internet, or they buy a package of bees and a queen. The first method is less expensive, costing around $25, while the second method is around $105. Both result in replenished colonies and higher prices for consumers. If you’ve bought honey recently you may have noticed the price has gone up quite a bit since 2006.

USDA researcher Kim Kaplan told The Washington Post via email, “It’s not the honey bees that are in danger of going extinct; it is the beekeepers providing pollination services because of the growing economic and management pressures. The alternative is that pollination contracts per colony have to continue to climb to make it economically sustainable for beekeepers to stay in business and provide pollination to the country’s fruit, vegetable, nut and berry crops.”

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What do you think of these statistics, options for replenishing colonies and beepocalypse?


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