To bee or not to bee: Huge numbers of the insects are vanishing

Bye, bye bees?: The mysterious disappearance of large portions of honey bee populations in 22 states have scientists trying to figure out where they're going. (Photo courtesy BugMan50)
Bye, bye bees?: The mysterious disappearance of large portions of honey bee populations in 22 states have scientists trying to figure out where they're going. (Photo courtesy BugMan50)
It’s not a very good time to be a honey bee.

Beekeepers in 22 states across the country have reported huge disappearances of their bees. And it’s a total mystery as to where they’ve gone.

I saw a report about this on the CBS Evening News a few weeks ago and have since seen more press accounts of the situation. And no one seems to know what’s really going on.

"Colonies are going down. The bees aren't dead in the box or aren't out front," said Jerry Bromenshenk, a bee researcher at the University of Montana in the CBS report. "They've just disappeared. Just vanished."

While parasites and disease have depleted bee populations in the past, there were traces of the dead bees left behind for scientists to analyze and figure out what’s happened. In these cases, huge numbers of bees kept by beekeepers, hundreds of hives and thousands of bees, within just a few days.

The loss of so many bees could have a huge impact on our human food chain. One of every three food items we chuck into our mouths each day is the direct result of the work of honey bees.

They’re hard work of popping from flower to flower pollinates the plants that give us vegetables and fruits we eat each day. Without the bees, and that pollinating action, those plants won’t bear their fruits.

Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman looked a the situation a couple days ago. Talking to a researcher at the University of Minnesota, he discovered that some of our large-scale agricultural practices may be “burning out” bees on their vital work.

Dr. Marla Spivak says that monoculture farming – the practice of planting one time of crop in a huge field for years and years – has led to a reduction in the amount of honey a bee colony produces. Over the past few years, that average has dipped from 100 pounds a year to 80.

On top of that, he points to the large-scale commercial beekeeping colonies where bees are trucked around the country to do pollination work around the country. They’re maybe being stretched too far in their work.
Also, the problems don’t seem to be impacting hobby beekeepers here in Minnesota. I didn’t know it, but Minnesota is one of the top five honey-producing states in the country, and the vast majority of those bees are tended by amateur keepers.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

Blogger Silfray Hraka believes a big factor is the way bees are used in industrial agriculture. Bee keepers move their hives around the country by truck, to pollinate different farms and orchards. Those bees can spread a disease or parasite to local populations. Or the other way around -- a healthy traveling hive may come into contact with diseased local bees, and then carry the disease with it on to the next stop.

(I also want to say that's the second-best headline we've ever had here at Science Buzz!)

posted on Fri, 03/02/2007 - 1:39pm
Thor's picture
Thor says:

But the real puzzling aspect to this situation is that the bees are gone without a dead bee carcasses around the hives. Maybe they're like old elephants who wander off from the herd when they're about to die

posted on Sun, 03/04/2007 - 2:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Apparently, the Rapture has occurred and God took only the bees...

Don't blame him. I'd take bees over people most days.

posted on Sat, 03/03/2007 - 5:48pm
Lex's picture
Lex says:

What's the big mystery? In France and the UK the bees have been dying for years.
In response to public protests, France has temporarily banned imidaproclid, known to be extremely toxic to bees.
Bayer AG used to maintain that 20ppb soil concentration was safe for bees, but has now lowered it to 4ppb. Other studies hace concluded that even 1ppb or less is not safe.
Imidaproclid has a half life of 1 to 2 years.
The EPA concluded that imidaproclid was SAFE in 2004, and cut off any more comment.
Safe for the EPA means safe for humans and other mammals. Bees are apparently not part of the environment at the epa.

posted on Fri, 03/09/2007 - 1:12pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I was going to say: Ask ADM,Monsanto or Bayer what's happening to the Bees.
These corporate criminals know the Answer to that hushed up Secret.

posted on Fri, 03/09/2007 - 2:01pm
TOM MAC's picture
TOM MAC says:


posted on Sun, 04/22/2007 - 12:15am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Now the internet is a-Buzz with bee disappearance theories. It's the rapture! No, it's the Earth's magnetic field! No, it's Keven Federline! (That's my favorite one...)

The upshot? No one knows yet what's causing Colony Collapse Disorder. But a lot of bee researchers are trying to figure it out.

posted on Wed, 05/02/2007 - 2:52pm
Larry's picture
Larry says:

I am concerned about the BEES also ,, is there anything I can do I am the Property Manager of a 133 acre camp ,, is thier anything I can do to make the bees want to stick around, plant something they like ??????? Thank You Larry

posted on Tue, 03/13/2007 - 5:47pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 2:01pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I heard a story on National Public Radio this weekend where the expert being interviewed had some recommendations.

Try the Urban Bee Project. The website has a section (still under construction, unfortunately) that at least lists some plants to try and some general factors to consider.

posted on Mon, 03/19/2007 - 2:35pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?

A limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.

Read about it here - The Independent

posted on Sun, 04/15/2007 - 9:35am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The Guardian's technology blogger weighed in, saying that the study was very small; looked at cordless phone base units, not mobile phones; and the results of the study had been misinterpreted by the popular media.

posted on Wed, 05/02/2007 - 2:38pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Here's an article which claims that bee die-offs are nothing new, and this year is not unusual. They claim it is a regular, natural cycle. Kinda like global warming. ;-)

And here's a biology blog asserting that bees use a different part of the electromagnetic spectrum for navigation, so cell phone signals shouldn't be having any effect on them.

posted on Sun, 04/15/2007 - 2:51pm
William James Davis's picture
William James Davis says:

If possible, we should electronically "tag" specimen honey bees at various locations of our country and see if we can monitor their movements with our global positioning system. This might at least give us some idea as to their mysterious disappearance.
Until we can determine the cause of their disapperance/depletion, whether caused by human activities or natural fluctuations in the environment, any speculation without evidence will be, pardon the expression, "fruitless".

posted on Mon, 04/23/2007 - 9:32pm
Steve S's picture
Steve S says:

Mr Davis, I believe we should also provide a "homing" beacon to aid the bees in returning to the beehive. I think we need to act quickly in creating new enclosed farms using bees for harvesting crops. Especially, if the following is true:

posted on Tue, 05/01/2007 - 8:59pm
osisbs's picture
osisbs says:

High Fructose Corn Syrup is NOT sugar. Sugar is Sugar. These bees have the same problem as the person in the cubicle next to you who sucks down 48 oz of soda every day and cannot even climb stairs. These bees, instead of working, are laying in a parking lot somewhere too fat and tired to get back to the hive. It's not going to show up as a disease or genetic problem or as a toxin which is why all these researchers are not finding it. HFCS isn't poison, but it's a killer. Ask the triple-bypass patient next to you.

posted on Thu, 04/26/2007 - 2:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Bees, frogs, salamanders,polar bears,forests,ozone...

ice caps hmmmmm....murcury in ohio river , can't eat the fish

smoke in the atmosphere, frost damaged forests of America

this year, no one noticed, I wonder why? global Warming or


posted on Thu, 04/26/2007 - 4:51pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Blogger Eric Scheie has done some digging. He's found that only some bees are affected, and those bees do only a small part of the pollinating. He wonders whether the media is pumping up this story to be bigger than it really is.

He also has some interesting comments on sustainable agriculture, the bee industry, and "killer bees."

posted on Fri, 04/27/2007 - 9:06am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

This article says a fungus is killing the bees.

posted on Sat, 04/28/2007 - 8:08am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Missing bees are a sign of the apocalypse!

posted on Tue, 05/01/2007 - 5:10pm
Andrew Baker's picture
Andrew Baker says:

Cell phones and other high frequency technology.As in the past we have moved into the physical territory of other living things and have destroyed their habitat in the interest of human progression,we are now jamming their ability to communicate.Without communication the social structure is destroyed especially when communication over long distances is vital for communal survival.Why arent wasps or hornets affected?A diffrence in diet?Just a theory.I am a layman.

posted on Tue, 05/01/2007 - 11:00pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it may be that corporate polution could be at the center of this mystery. however, if it is, then how is it that the bee carcasses aren't turning up? they couldn't cover something that big (in 22 states) even if they were trying. could it be alien siphoning perhaps, either for their use in some capacity or to exact an effect on our agriculture? too far out? how about a terrorist plot to cripple our agricultural output? but how would they stash the carcasses? or, if they're takin' 'em alive how would they 'collect' them: giant vacuum cleaners or suction devices?? really! could the bees be hiding in caves or other natural niches where they would be able to hold up? are most of these 22 states located in or near mountains where huge numbers could be incognito? whatever the reason, the primary clue to the solution here seems to me to be the fact that they're GONE, ABSENT, MISSING. that implies some agent of COLLECTION is at work. Maybe crop circle messages haven't had the intended effect and now these mysterious forces are going to the next level. Mother Nature is in control; we only wish that we were......but we're not......not even close. if there was some way in which we could TAG our bee friends electronically then maybe we might get some clue as to where they're going or what's transporting them elsewhere. is there a feasible and available technology for this? If not, I think that we'd better invent it pronto!

posted on Mon, 05/28/2007 - 7:55pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I think we can safely rule out extra-terrestrial aliens as the cause. ;-)

As for the carcasses, I suspect that other animals scavenge them, eating the dead bees.

posted on Wed, 05/30/2007 - 11:17am
M's picture
M says:

These are all very interesting and for the most part, well-thought-out comments. However, it would be very helpful if everyone would slow down a bit and proof-read your comments before sending. You don't have to be an English major, but proper spelling really helps understanding as well as a rudimentary observation of basic grammar. "Mercury" has been misspelled "murcury" and so on. It is my experience that beekeepers are very hard working and intelligent people, and the public will respect our opinions better if we can express ourselves clearly. Thanks. M

posted on Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:51pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

An insect expert at the University of California--Riverside provides a calm overview of the bee situation.

posted on Fri, 06/01/2007 - 8:20am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

So...scientists still haven't determined the cause of the bee die-offs, but, according to the Associated Press, efforts to figure it out are focusing on a yet-to-be-determined pathogen and neonicotinoid pesticides.

(More on neonicotinoid pesticides)

Also, according to the article,

"Reports [of colony collapse] are across the board as of mid-June, a time when bee colonies are supposed to be thriving. Some beekeepers have said they are losing bees, while others are holding steady or growing colonies again."

This wikipedia article about neonicotinoid pesticides is much more specific about effects on bees, but it's also tagged as not being up to quality standards...

posted on Thu, 06/14/2007 - 2:45pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Hmm, Pooh Bear is very upset about this honey situation and of course food for C.Robin, rabbit, tigger roo and piglet too. MONSANTO. Maybe they have a clue. Oahu has lost most of it's bee's due to parasite. They are trying to keep it from reaching other islands, but hey, the military there play's with D.U., maybe they know something. Monsanto is big business in Hi. and located on Maui. The Gov. Linda Lingle is off to Japan to talk them into buying gmo stawberry papaya's. How do these people get electetd??? According to Einstein if honey bee's disappear, mankind has about 4 years left. No bee's, no pollination=no food. Maybe the bee's know something we don't. Aloha

posted on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 6:01pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

I'm not following...what do Monsanto and the military and D.U. (whatever that is) have to do with bees? Can you explain? And what is the concern with the governor's trade mission?

The Einstein quote first appeared in 1994, long after Albert had died. It is almost certainly a fabrication. Not to downplay the potential danger, but there are lots of pollinators besides bees.

posted on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 8:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

See if you get a copy of Maui Time Weekly May 31 cover story. The hope was a quarantine on local honey (Maui) that would slow the ravenous appetite of the VARROA MITE, which has annihilated Oahu bees but hasn't yet reached Maui. "To Bee or not to Bee". I'm sure they would be happy to get you the article.

posted on Thu, 06/21/2007 - 6:20pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

Mariano Higes, who leads a team of researchers at a government-funded apiculture centre in Guadalajara, claims that a parasite common in Asian bees has spread to Europe and the Americas and is behind the mass disappearance of honeybees in many countries.

"We've no doubt at all it's nosema ceranae and we think 50 percent of Spanish hives are infected," he said.

Treatment for nosema ceranae is effective and cheap -- 1 euro (US$1.4) a hive twice a year -- but beekeepers first have to be convinced the parasite is the problem.
Read more: Asian Parasite Killing Western Bees

posted on Fri, 07/20/2007 - 9:10am
William James Davis's picture
William James Davis says:

According to the latest research concerning CCD [Colony Collapse Disease], the culprit behind the bees dying is a virus that is apparently indigenous to Middle East countries. Scientists took bees from healthy hives and bees associated with CCD hives, crushed them, and then examined their DNA. They were able to determine that only the CCD bees had this virus present in the DNA samples. There may be other factors at play, but this virus appears to be the dominant cause of the CCD problem. The scientists, however, are at a loss to explain why the United States has been the victum of such a widespread epidemic among the bee colonies in our country. The widespread outbreak has apparently not occurred in other countries. One possibility could be ecological bioterroism. The virus' connection with the Middle East does raise that spectre. I know that sounds a little paranoid, but the people that seek to harm America are a formidable foe. America has been referred to as the "bread basket" of the world. It does cause one to at least consider the possiblity. Apparently, the virus can be killed by low grade irradiation that is not harmful to the bees. Perhaps the Department of Agriculture should consider providing bee keepers with the means and assistance to irradicate the virus to prevent further contamination of healthy hives.

posted on Thu, 09/06/2007 - 10:46pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Here's an article from Nature on the virus.

posted on Fri, 09/07/2007 - 6:45am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

The Bible prophecies horrible famines in the last days. This will begin to fulfill those prophecies.

posted on Fri, 09/14/2007 - 11:33am

what about a possible effect of the thousands of micro waves sources on the bees....

posted on Tue, 10/30/2007 - 10:26am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

maybe its just that it is the fact that the weather is unstable and killing them off
because of the climate changes and the fact that the trees are even confused
confirms this. Heck in Ga we are in the 70's and 80's during Feb. and then it
drops to a 40 high and 28 low the next day.

posted on Fri, 04/11/2008 - 6:57pm
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

A survey of bee health released Tuesday revealed a grim picture, with 36.1 percent of the nation's commercially managed hives lost since last year. Read more about bee losses here.

posted on Wed, 05/07/2008 - 7:07am
Candace's picture
Candace says:

Ugh, no wonder why there is so many bee is minesota. I hate bees. they scare me.

posted on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 8:41pm
Tina's picture
Tina says:

I believe the asian hornets are killing them seriously
because they too live in hollow trees which are rotted

posted on Sat, 01/10/2009 - 7:27pm
easy answer for smart people!'s picture
easy answer for smart people! says:

everyone is amazed at the loss of bees, well im not a scholar but heres why, our planet is sometime in the very near future will be going though a polar reversal which our little friends our telling us it is very possible that most of mankind will also be lost, depending on the severity of the switch its been 750,000 years since the last one. remember what happened then? well the media is keeping this under the table since the coming out would disrupt basic human services. I have studied this for years and with the sunspot activity at a high point and proper planet placement and the earths magnetic field 40 percent depleted in recent years, we should be looking at mid 2012 to mid 2013 at our polar reversal, i am not a kook! just a science based person and also a godfearing person but facts are facts!! bees follow totally along with many other species on earth, i have kept track fors 20 years and migration habits have changed greatly, this is not global warming, our planet is actually cooler, more ice pack than ever, please look at different events instead of what we think are obvious. I would guess i am probably right. i have no affilation with any groups or doomsday idiots, just pure scientific facts.

posted on Fri, 04/17/2009 - 11:26pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

An update on bee disappearance: while pesticides have been implicated, it seems they are not the cause of colony collapse. And while bee numbers in the US have dropped since 2004, they are still up over the long term, and rising today in many other countries.

posted on Sun, 05/02/2010 - 7:50pm
bella451001's picture

i have seen alotta honey bees this season ...... maybe cause em outta america . maybe there habitat is being disturbed in one way or the other ....... its only due to the habitat destruction there is aproblem in the environment thats could be the reason that the colonies ov bees disappeared ..........

posted on Sun, 05/02/2010 - 11:45pm

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