24 February 2017

Bees are endangered. Or not.

First, from USA Today:
A bumblebee is now on the endangered species list for the first time in a "race against extinction," the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.

The agency placed the rusty patched bumblebee on the list because of a dramatic population decline over the past 20 years. Since the late 1990s, the population of the species has plummeted 87%.

Named because of the rust-colored marks on its back, the bee was once common and abundant across 28 states from Connecticut to South Dakota. Today, the bee is only found in small, scattered populations in 13 states...

It's not just the rusty patched bumblebee that is struggling in the U.S. Other species have experienced dramatic declines in recent decades. The reduction is believed to be caused by a combination of habitat loss, disease, pesticide use, climate change and an extremely small population size...

This is the first bee of any type in the continental U.S. to be placed on the list. In September, the Obama administration designated seven species of bees in Hawaii as endangered.
Counterpoint from the Washington Post:
You've probably heard the bad news by now that bees were recently added to the endangered species list for the first time. But if you're part of the 60 percent of people who share stories without actually reading them, you might have missed an important detail: namely, that the newly endangered bees are a handful of relatively obscure species who live only in Hawaii.

The bees you're more familiar with — the ones that buzz around your yard dipping into flowers, making honey, pollinating crops and generally keeping the world's food supply from collapsing? Those bees are doing just fine, according to data released by the USDA this year...

The number of commercial bee colonies is still significantly higher than it was in 2006, when colony collapse disorder — the mass die-offs that began afflicting U.S. honeybee colonies — was first documented...

“Honey bees are not about to go extinct,” Kim Kaplan, a researcher with the USDA, said in an email. “It is the beekeepers who are in danger, facing unsustainable economic losses."


  1. The Post is pulling a sleight of hand there. It's true that *commercial* bee colonies are treading water -- but *feral* bee colonies are nearly extinct.

    That's a real problem. The commercial bee colonies are surviving mainly by splitting hives, which means their genetic diversity is growing more limited. Without the feral colonies (which were once used to increase genetic diversity in the commercial hives) this is a disaster waiting to happen.

  2. I wonder how many people started keeping bees on their rural properties when they heard the bees were in trouble? I wonder, because I have three bee hives, and a family a mile up the road has three, and three miles up the road, they have five hives, and then across the street is a commercial bee hive operation. Are we just weird, or is everyone taking up beekeeping these days? We have five acres of wildflowers for the bees, too. It's a lovely field, and the honey is absolutely divine.

    There's something about it that confuses me.. The bees we got are Italian honey bees- not native to the United States. So, are honey bees even native to North America? And if they aren't even native, how can they be endangered?

    I'm seriously asking. I don't know the answer.

    1. Honey bees (of the domesticated varieties) are not native to America.

      As to Delagar's post, "feral" bees are those who once we're domesticated bees, but escaped to create a new hive or became unattended. They are usually extremely close to the domesticated bees, though their colonies are generally weaker (and they have taken a big hit in colony population.

      Aside from these, there are many species of wild bees which are native to the Americas, some of which are struggling, and many which have not been adversely impacted at all.

  3. honeybees represent just a few species among hundreds of species of "bees." Bumblebees are not honeybees.

  4. [insert bee / honey / hive pun here]

  5. You can get free wildflower seeds...http://www.cheerios.com/bringbackthebees


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