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Honeybees are Not Headed for Extinction

In my recently released paper, I point out many misconceptions circulating regarding recent challenges to honeybee hive health. Today, I came across another example of the confusion about this issue in a letter to the editor in a Canadian newspaper. The title says it all:  “Honeybees Headed for Extinction.” I agree with the author’s conclusion that planting certain flowers around farms to give the bees a more diverse diet is a good idea—and I do that myself.  However, honeybees are not going extinct. Consider a few points I make in my paper:

The number of honeybee hives in the world has increased overall. Globally, far more honeybees are used for honey production than pollination services, and the amount of honey produced has increased. U.S. and European commercial hives have decreased because honey production simply moved to other nations, where the number of hives has grown substantially. According to the United Nations Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) statistics the number of beehives kept globally has grown from nearly 50 million in 1961 to more than 80 million in 2013.

There have been some hive health problems in the United States and Europe in recent years related to a number of factors outlined in my paper. Fortunately, surveys in 2014 show that American and European honeybee hives have improving survival rates. And hives kept for pollination services in the U.S. and Europe have shown better survival rates in recent years, much closer to what beekeepers consider normal.

Farming and food production is not about to collapse because of poor pollination. About one third of food production in the United States benefits from honey bee pollination, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Poor hive health is unlikely to completely undermine production of these foods, but it could make them more expensive. Fortunately, improved hive survival can mitigate such issues.

So, yes, plant flowers, but there is no good reason to believe that honeybees are going to completely disappear.