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When you’re trying to enjoy Arizona’s beautiful weather from the comfort of your own backyard, you don’t love having bees buzz around your house. Even though you know they’re not aggressive and probably won’t sting you, a bee’s buzzing sound just makes you feel unsettled.

Despite not being the biggest fan of bees, you also know they play an important role in agriculture. They pollinate plants that produce fruits, vegetables, and other crops. So when you heard about bee colonies collapsing at high rates, you started wondering about the health of the bee population.

In this blog post, we’ll explore this phenomenon, sometimes known as colony collapse disorder, including why it’s happening and how beekeepers (and you) can help.

An Introduction to Colony Collapse Disorder

Concern about diminishing bee populations first came to a head in 2006. In that year, approximately one third of the US’s domestic honeybee colonies collapsed. These populations create commercial honey and pollinate other commercial crops such as almonds, blueberries, cherries, soybeans, and pears. All told, about one third of the food you eat would never have reached your plate without bees.

Since 2006, bee colonies have continued to die off at roughly the same rate: one in three colonies per year. But there is good news. Most wild bee species living in America appear to be healthy, which experts say bodes well for the domesticated honeybee. It’s inaccurate to say honeybees are going extinct.

Also, because domesticated honeybees are essentially livestock, the overall population hasn’t declined much. Why not? A beekeeper can buy a new queen to replace a collapsed colony. This queen needs about one season to produce a full hive of bees again. In fact, only queen bees live longer than a few weeks. But when a colony collapses, the queen bee dies along with the drones and workers.

Still, US crop production depends on a healthy honeybee population. With so many bees disappearing or dying, researchers have examined up close the forces behind the population decline.

Factors Contributing to CCD

No one factor causes colony collapse disorder. Rather, numerous factors interplay with one another and affect honeybees’ ability to survive and thrive. Researchers believe the worst contributors to CCD include the following:

  • Single-crop farming practices – Many commercial farms grow only one type of crop on the same land for years. This practice depletes the soil of vital nutrients, so farmers apply fertilizers that can be toxic to honeybees. Bees also remain healthier when they get to pollinate multiple kinds of crops rather than just one or two at a time.
  • Travel – Many commercial beekeepers don’t keep their hives in one location. Rather, they transport them around the country to pollinate inseason crops. The constant travel disorients bees and forces them to eat restricted diets.
  • Pesticides – Like fertilizers, these chemicals also have a toxic effect on bees, especially after repeated exposure.
  • Varroa mites – These pests feed on the blood of honeybees. Varroa mites are becoming more and more resistant to pesticides. Plus, repeated pesticide exposure makes honeybees more vulnerable to varroa bites.

Ultimately, the combination of these factors means bees get overworked and overstressed. And since bees are social creatures, the stress on individual bees affects the entire hive. Scientists have observed that young bees sense the stress and head out to forage before they should. This premature foraging upsets the colony’s order and leads to drastic, rapid population decline.

Ways Beekeepers Are Fighting Back

Beekeepers have devised methods to keep the bee population steady. As mentioned above, they often buy fertilized queens to replace collapsed colonies. Some keepers also buy a pre-populated replacement colony that contains both a queen and thousands of ready-to-go workers.

Another solution they use is to split a healthy hive into two. Adding a second queen to the new hive ensures that both colonies grow and replenish the bee population.

Another solution they use is to split a healthy hive into two. Adding a second queen to the new hive ensures that both colonies grow and replenish the bee population.

What You Can Do

As a concerned citizen, you can do some small things to protect the bee population. Try growing a backyard garden or planting flowers during each season. Check out our list of plants that benefit bees for ideas. These efforts give wild bees places to forage so they can enjoy a varied diet. Remember not to use chemical pesticides on your garden.

You can support local beekeepers by purchasing their honey. You may even buy more organically grown produce since organic farmers use growing practices that are bee-friendly.

ASAP Bee removal is always at the ready to answer and resolve any questions you may have at 602-751-1002.