new report reveals that U.S. beekeepers lost roughly half of the honey bees they managed last year. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign entomology professor Adam Dolezal, who studies how environmental stressors affect honey bees and wild bees, spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the current status of bees in the U.S.

Honey bee populations have been faltering since at least 2006. Why can’t scientists and the beekeeping community address and solve whatever is causing the massive die-offs?

While scientists and beekeepers have made progress understanding what causes problems in bee health, finding solutions is more difficult because the problems are complex, variable, and interact with each other. For example, one of the major issues in bee health is nutrition – a biological issue. But this problem is related to changes in land use, with areas that once supported honey bee foraging being converted more and more into crops that don’t really benefit bees. This is an economic/policy issue.

The nutrition problem interacts with pesticide exposure and pathogen stress, which both have their own independent complexities. Climate change also means much more variable and volatile weather during the seasons when bees are active and over the winter. These factors affect bees and beekeeping in ways we don’t yet fully understand. So, while many are working to improve bee health in many small ways, there is no single simple problem so there cant be one single simple solution.

What factors are most important to the survival of honey bees?

Honey bees are really flexible and resilient animals, and beekeepers are smart and resourceful people. This is why we see honey bees – wild and managed – across the globe. One major drawback of being so easily kept and moved by beekeepers is that bees come into contact with more pests and pathogens, which can rapidly move through a population.

Read the full article at the Illinois News Bureau