back to article BUZZKILL. Honeybees are dying in DROVES - and here's a reason why

American honey bee numbers briefly stopped falling off a cliff last year, but apiarists are now warning that was a blip, not a flattening of the trend. This year over 40 per cent of colonies were seen to die out, up from a yearly average of 30 per cent. Last year however, that number dipped to just 23 per cent, a move welcomed …

  1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    Simon uses bees to make cosmetics.

    Simon uses bees to make cosmetics.

    Wouldn't "bee sourced products" or suchlike be more accurate (as indeed it's how he puts it on his website)?

    You make it sound like he's mashing up the bees themselves as ingredients to make his lotions and potions...

    Still a worrying trend overall though, whichever way you look at it.

    1. tony

      Re: Simon uses bees to make cosmetics.

      Or as slave labour?

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: Simon uses bees to make cosmetics.

        We'll pay for using bees as slave labour.

        We'll ALL pay.

        1. edge_e

          Re: Simon uses bees to make cosmetics.

          clearly downvoted by somebody who didn't follow the link

    2. Alan Newbury

      Re: Simon uses bees to make cosmetics.

      Yum. Mushy bees

  2. xenny

    This year 40% died out. Last year 23% died out. That seems pretty close to the 30% per year average the article considers normal.

    1. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      The article says "average" (actually referring to the last few years), not "normal".

    2. MondoMan

      The bee colony numbers are quite gooey


      1) The colony yearly survival counts have only been run since 2010, so the story's "past decade" is somewhat misleading.

      2) The "counts" rely on beekeeper self-reporting rather than a scientific survey and so are of questionable scientific value.

      (That's mead in my glass, and mud in your eye)

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    "This represents the second highest annual loss recorded to date"

    So... we've been here before and they recovered just fine?

    As someone who sat and played the Foxes and Rabbits game on their ZX Spectrum (Game of Life I believe it was called or similar?), even as a child I took away that the simplest of rules and systems can result in potentially chaotic behaviour and it's hard to even estimate if it will dip or grow after even the most severe of drops.

    Honeybees aren't *endangered* from what I can see - there's just a huge variation in the colonies. Maybe the efforts one year to preserve and encourage new colonies overwhelmed some other resource or caused overpopulation which is now taking effect in recurring a dip.

    I'm not saying it's not potentially important - but dire warnings when we literally say in the same sentence "but we don't know why" are useless. Find out why, by all means. Increase funding for research. But it's scaremongering to do that without also mentioning "Well, it might just be natural variation, we don't know".

    There are animals out there that surface on prime numbered years to avoid predators who return on a regular basis, and their predator's behaviour evolves quickly to take account but - obviously - in the meantime a lot of their predators will die out because they can't adjust that quickly. And then when the predator's catch on to it, the natural selection means that the prime numbered intervals they surface on actually CHANGES over time - obviously after a particularly bad year, a slow boom happens until the predators catch on again.

    Research is needed. But scaremongering is not a fair way to get funding for that.

    As is the default in all science: We just don't know. Until we know, any action we take may actually be making the situation WORSE.

    1. Triggerfish

      Actually I read it as its the second highest annual loss, on an already downward trend. In which case its fair to say the bee is in trouble.

      1. Mike Taylor

        Quite, it doesn't sound good. On the other hand, we have to remember that in most parts of the world, and for most species, only the pregnant queens survive winter, so all colonies are created from scratch every year.

        1. PlacidCasual

          @ Mike Taylor

          This is not the case for honey bees. They overwinter as a colony. A poor winter and spring can kill a colony. Equally whilst it is possible to split colony this affects honey production and colony strength. As a bee keeper I lost 3 of 5 hives 2 winters ago and struggled keep my 2 going through the following summer. Last summer was very good however. Most sensible beekeepers would tell you that no single cause is to bame but rather a raft of causes. Insecticides, monoculture diet (all the same food), poor winters/springs (wet and windy), varroa mite, diseases and in the US the routine long distance wholesale relocation of colonies to support the furit industry. All add up to weaken the bees and kill them off.

    2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      @LeeD "So... we've been here before and they recovered just fine?

      AFAIK, the whole phenomenon is just a few years old, so no, they have not recovered. It was big news a few years ago (probably masked by the global financial crisis), not sure why El Reg is picking this up just now.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        @T. F. M. Reader

        I have heard 'Honey bees are going extinct' stories for decades. For years cell phones were blamed, then pesticides. Very occasionally, an article is actually based on some research. Real data fingered a combination of mites, pesticide and a fungus as a likely culprit. Have fun looking for some real research hidden in the dross.

      2. Tom 13

        @T. F. M. Reader

        YOU might only have just picked up on El Reg covering this, but El Reg has been covering this for for at least three years.

  4. Snivelling Wretch


    And don't forget Neonicotinoid pesticides...

    1. frank ly

      Re: Neonicotinoids

      Possibly in combination with an unfamiliar mite parasite. Life is complicated, as always.

    2. Steve Crook

      Re: Neonicotinoids

      No, please, lets.

      The ban on neonics is probably going to be responsible for the deaths of more bees this year than neonics ever were. My local beekeeping association has already warned that we should expect more of our bees to be at risk because farmers will have to resort to legal but far more noxious insecticides and have to use them more often because they can't use neonics.

      It's more likely that the problems we've seen in recent years are the effects of imported diseases and habitat loss. In the US commercial keeping involves moving thousands of colonies around the country to follow the pollination season. It's ideal for spreading nasties around at super high speed.

      Just wait until the asian hornet turns up. They'll have to fight it out with resistant varroa and small hive beetle.

      1. Whiskers

        Sharing resources between species

        What a shame it is that farmers are forced to use poisons on their land and crops to stop any species but us (and our few special friends) from getting enough to eat.

        I'm sure all those poisons can't be doing us any good either in the long term, even if we aren't killed outright.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Sharing resources between species

          I'm sure all those poisons can't be doing us any good either in the long term, even if we aren't killed outright.

          Only for fat-accumulating non-degradable ones.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sharp increase in the fall of bee numbers

    The sharp decline in bee numbers...


    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The sharp increase in the fall of bee numbers

      The sharp increase in the rate of decline in bee numbers...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The sharp increase in the rate of decline in bee numbers

        The bees' numbers' second derivative's effect on human emotions


  6. Bill 8

    Android app--how ironic

    It's Official - Cell Phones are Killing Bees

    1. Triggerfish

      Re: Android app--how ironic

      The immediate sentence in the article though says researchers say may be causing, clickbait headline.

      More than likely it would not surprise (in a complete guess), as being a number of factors, generally speaking a lot of species are pretty robust at dealing with a crisis of some sort, such as climate change, but they often seems to get hit with double whammys such as an addition of habitat loss, or pollution, I think it tips the edge of how much they can come back from a problem.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Android app--how ironic

      Cell Phones are Killing Bees

      Do they sneak out at night an whack them over the head?

      That bullshit idea (in an article from 2011) is utterly stupid and from the "GSM signals gave my kid cancer/autism due to all the digital hardness in there" sunday morning science idiot brigade. It also has been repeatedly buried. Get lost.

      bees reacted significantly to cell phones that were placed near or in hives in call-making mode

      Clearly a real-world situation.

      The impact has already been felt the world over, as the population of bees in the U.S. and the U.K. has decreased by almost half in the last thirty years – which coincides with the popularization and acceptance of cell phones as a personal device.

      No it doesn't and that cretin who wrote that should be thrown out into the street and the "researchers" shot for asshattery.

      1. Richard 26

        Re: Android app--how ironic

        Do they sneak out at night an whack them over the head?

        No, the bees spend all day checking out BuzzFeed instead of gathering nectar.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Perhaps the department of pirates stole the 'r'

      aarrghh me hearties

      1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

        Pehaps the depatment of piates stole the ''

        aaghh me heaties

        They've done it again!

  8. Fink-Nottle

    > Simon Cavill, who left the IT business to concentrate on apiculture, told us that the perfect food for bees are dandelions.

    Simon then performed a peculiar, figure-eight, waggle-tail dance.

  9. Conundrum1885

    Its a dizzzaster

    Asian hornets (aka Vespa mandarinia) have a taste for bees, this could be the perfect storm event to push the European honeybee into extinction.

  10. PJI


    You mention the USA, of course. then you mention that GB has not yet seen this pest. How about that small and insignificant island just 21 miles off the South coast? I mean, the risk if the pest reaches there must be significant and perhaps more likely as there are some rather large and busy ports on that island's coast (some of which get the odd rowing boat from the USA visiting them), part of which faces the glorious USA outpost of GB.

    Still, I suppose the 21 mile barrier is more effective than the tiny couple of thousand or so separating us from the USA.

    A puzzled question: why do so many disbelievers in basic biology and the danger to habitats and species of foreign pests (to which neither habitat nor species are likely to be immune) write letters to display their ignorance?

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    It's generally considered that a combination or various combinations of some or all of the stressors for bees are behing declining bee populations. There are so many stressors including parasites, diseases, pesticides and antibiotics amongst others that bees have a lot to contend with, occasionally it becomes too much in an area so bees decline.

    I have been reading about it since the nineties when a friend kept a few hives, I don't think there are many more conclusions now than then.

  12. elip

    my solution

    Just a hunch, but I have a feeling if we kill all humans, the bees will rebound and thrive.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      Re: my solution

      If you remove yourself first, I promise to seriously consider following you.

      1. elip

        Re: my solution

        I would, obviously, start with myself, and assume the rest of you a-holes stay true to the honors system.

  13. myhandler

    Is this linked to usage of GM crops ?.. to be specific the fact that GM crops are more pesticide tolerant thus allowing farmers to spray more.

    I don't know - is there any evidence for this?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      GM crops are more pesticide tolerant thus allowing farmers to spray more

      Farmers want to spray LESS, not more. That's the whole point. Ideally, they would not spray at all as the plant kills of the pests all by itself. OTOH, GM crops may be herbicide tolerant to not be killed off with the weed killers, but that is another problem. Then there is tolerance against the usual viruses which tend to ruin your harvest.

      Is this linked to usage of GM crops?

      No results


      Have fun

      Pretty much the first article yields:

      As the team reports in today's Science, they found that genes of the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) matched extremely well with hives with the disorder. "If you identify IAPV in a colony, the probability is over 96% that this is going to come from a CCD hive," says lead author Ian Lipkin of Columbia University in New York. The virus was found in only a single sample that was not identified as having CCD.

      Time for Bayes!

  14. Lamont Cranston

    I would just like to confirm

    that dandelions are indeed very nice to eat. Easier to harvest than nettles, too.

  15. Mr Spoons

    THIS is why the bee population is collapsing.

    It's all down to film hardman Jason Statham...

  16. DerekCurrie

    There is a group of SEVERAL reasons...

    ...why we humans are managing to kill off the honeybees, our symbiotic friends upon whom we rely for our agriculture.

    1) Maniacal use of several different applied pesticides, including neonicotinoids and glyphosates.

    2) The Israeli bee virus, consistently and stupidly being imported by way of Australian bees used for industrial pollination.

    3) Incredibly poor treatment of bees by the pollination industry, including literal starvation of nutrients during winter months. No, they don't live only on sugar, you dolts.

    4) GMO plants with integrated pesticides. That was foolish!

    5) Bee mites, a long standing problem we've barely attempted to solve.

    6) Local fungi that infect bees and compromise their health.

    . . .

    IOW: As long as we keep thinking there is ONE cause of the massive Apis mellifera die off, we will FAIL to stop this CATASTROPHE of human survival proportions. We have to grow up and learn to understand how nature works and how it doesn't work when we blunderingly interfere, our sad status quo. Then we can begin to work WITH nature to stop and prevent these catastrophes. Let's get to it!

  17. Compression Artifact

    "Bees" vs. "honeybees"

    Last night, coincidentally, I attended a talk on pollinators by our local agricultural entomologist. Two of his points were that 1) many if not most honeybee-decline alarmists don't know what they're talking about and are just ideologues going for newspaper headlines and 2) a common mistake is equating "bee" and "honeybee." In America, the latter is actually a non-native invader and the importance of native bees to both agriculture and native plants is not often appreciated.

    Read more here:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Bees" vs. "honeybees"

      Remind those alarmists to watch out especially for the native bees.

      And while we are on the subject, enjoy this madness.

  18. Zmodem

    the real reason, is you just kill the queen in spring time when she flies through your window searching for a place to have a hive

    they are 3x bigger then they used to be 10 years ago

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