Given all of the interest in AG these days, perhaps we should look at something that might lead to some extreme scarcity: Honey Bees.

Or more specifically, the decreasing number of them. Daily Infographic has today’s digital delight: This monstrous graphic looks at the mystery of the Honeybee die offs:

This is the first 10% of it:

full graphic after the jump

click for larger image

Category: Digital Media, Science

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

34 Responses to “Honey Bee Extinction”

  1. curbyourrisk says:

    With all the genetically modified crops……could we be killing them off????

    With all the gentically modified crops… we still need them????

    Expect Monsanto to create seeds that do not need to be pollinated.

  2. louis says:

    I was Short Bee’s all along.

  3. norkot2003 says:

    The Bee g Picture…………..I love this site.

    I have a guy who sets about 30 hives on my little 40 acre alfalfa hay field every summer out here in North Dakota……….. two years ago he took one hive and set it about 35 feet away from the rest, then he set an old cell phone on it that was on ………..and 12 days later there were no bees in the hive………

    I’m just sayin’………….something is going terribly wrong someplace.

  4. jonpublic says:

    I was fairly certain that the there is a bayer pesticide that is identified as the cause of colony collapse disorder.

    In November 2010, WikiLeaks released a FDA document [4] detailing observations regarding Clothianidin during a review of a Bayer request to extend the usage of Clothianidin as a pesticide. The summary of the memo ends with the statement: “This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistence of residues and potential residual toxicity of Clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggests the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual instability of the hive.” [5]“

  5. FrancoisT says:

    One of my nephews is studying in France. They love fresh and local honey out there (le terroir, vous comprenez, quoi!) ; so much so that there is a lot of urban beekeepers, including big cities like Paris, Lille, Nantes, you name it.

    Something weird is happening tough; during the last, say, 15 years, urban colonies are faring much better than the rural ones. CCD is hitting the rural colonies in droves, while urban colonies experience much milder losses.

    So far, no definite explanation has stood scrutiny. One thing is sure: no one spreads a lot of pesticides around in urban environments. However, scientists examining the pesticide hypothesis have encountered enormous legal and political difficulties (surprise! surprise!) in getting their work done.

    Me think someone’s (Hint: BASF among others) got something to hide.

  6. curbyourrisk says:


    Completely off topic.

    If you had to pick 10 statistics to follow concerning the economy, what would they be?
    I know this has nothing to do with the topic, but I am working on something here at my company and am trying to get input from a few of the bigger guys out there. Have already gotten responses from 2 out of the 3 most viewed blogs (by me).

    Thanks in advance and very much appreciated.

  7. gd says:

    clothianidin, neonicitnoids. Same old story. While the rest of the developed world is banning them, the heroic pesticide industry is leading the charge in the USA against nanny state government, right over the cliff.

  8. joedef says:

    As several note above, the evidence suggests that Monsanto (GMOs) and Bayer (the insect neurotoxin called Clothianidin) are the culprits. Huge changes in plant life, pesticides, etc., are the simplest and most convincing explanations for this catastrophe.

    The USDA, puppets of Monsanto, orchestrated the bee’s demise (through reckless gambles on the safety of GMOs), but nobody in power wants to consider/acknowledge that possibility; otherwise, enough effort would be put into this matter to establish perfect certainty.

  9. maddog2020 says:

    Curbyourrisk: “With all the gentically modified crops… we still need them????

    Expect Monsanto to create seeds that do not need to be pollinated.”

    Even if it could be done (some have very complex genetics), how much time would it take to replace all the fruit orchards in the US alone with transgenics? Good luck with that.

  10. wally says:

    Honey bees are not native to North America. North American plants got pollinated just fine without them in pre-colonial times. In fact, there were more varieties of plants raised for food in the New World than in Europe when Columbus landed.

  11. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    Some studies I’ve read attribute CCD to the overworked commercial bees having their immune systems compromised, making them more likely to fall prey to all sorts of viruses, mites, etc.

    Inbreeding also appears to be a factor in CCD. I’ve read where mixing wild European bees with commercially European bred bees has in many instances helped reverse CCD.

    Basically, they need rest, and they need to stop inbreeding.

  12. “Basically, they need rest, and they need to stop inbreeding.”

    When did this become a blog about my in-laws?

  13. Lariat1 says:

    Honey bees are not native but bumble bees are : and see previous link on their decline.

  14. yoganmahew says:

    “Honey bees are not native to North America. North American plants got pollinated just fine without them in pre-colonial times. ”
    Neither are cows, chickens, pigs… howdya like them grits?
    (Guess what animals eat)
    You might want to watch out for scurvy too…

  15. dsimmons says:

    Here is the money shot from the EPA article regarding Clothianidin

    “Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic.”

  16. NeutralObserver says:

    I was, until recently, a hobby beekeeper. Believe it or not, it is actually stress relieving to work a bee hive because you really cannot afford to have your mind wander to other things. So yes, urban beekeepers do not see the declines that commercial bee keepers see. The new pesticides are actually better for bees because they are less toxic to bees than the pesticides they are replacing. Commercial beekeepers are a big part of the problem since they now approach beekeeping like factory farming. They pull too many resources out of their hives and push them to do too much. In December they start feeding their bees corn syrup and soybean based protein patties (not ideal bee food) in the middle of winter to artificially stimulate the growth of the hive so they can ship them to California in February for almond pollination. Why? Because the price for almond pollination has increased from around $40-50 per hive to $125-200 per hive. 4-6 weeks later they pack them up again on an 18 wheeler and ship them off to pollinate oranges, or cucumbers, or blueberries, etc. in some other part of the country, and then move them again to another crop or to alfalfa for the summer. Moving bees on the highway on the back of a truck is stressful and you can see that it slows the hives down quite a bit every time it happens. Every year bees are trucked from as far away as Florida and Minnesota to California for almonds and then back, so any new bee disease arising is transported each year to where most of the nation’s bees congregate and then redistributed across the country. In the last decade a lot of bees are raised in Australia or other countries and shipped to the USA (yes even bees are outsourced), so bee diseases are more easily finding their way here and a lot of new diseases have. Bee keepers also have a habit of requeening their hives every year to optimize the vigor of their hives, so if there are any disease resistant queens out there they are killed and replaced by an inbred commercially produced queen. Finally, there are a lot of things we still don’t know about bees. Recently we have learned that bees need a natural fermentation of pollen to occur in order to make the proteins digestible for bees and that the new fungicides inhibit this process. All the bee journals are now showing that bee losses are reduced when bees are fed well, especially with pollen and honey – surprise!

  17. zozie says:

    Just visited New Zealand and the number of bees was noticeable. Flower beds just shaking with them.

    Evidence that isolated areas are not as affected by CCD? I don;t know more than what I saw.

  18. gd says:

    Trivia for those of you unimpressed with honeybee performance: the distance flown by all the foragers of a single honeybee hive in one year (read: facilitating human commerce) is equal to half the distance from the earth to Venus. The single evolutionary trick of humans– intelligence– has yet to withstand the test of time. I’m not betting on it. Ref: The Buzz About Bees, Juergen Tautz.

  19. JimRino says:

    So what Nuetral Observer is saying is we’ve moved to Factory Farming Bees, just like Cattle and Chicken.
    This is sad.

  20. mwbugg says:

    I’m a Monsanto retiree with some experience in this area. Europe has bee problems and essentially no biotech crops. The Bt proteins used in U.S. biotech crops for insect management are very specific with regards to pest control and are not active on bees.

  21. beehacker says:

    Beekeepers are like economists. The more confident they are in their assertions, the quicker you should flee. The cause of CCD is not known. There are some good theories but they do not include cell phones or single corporations.

    I have enjoyed this blog for a long time. I particularly enjoy the intellect shown in the posts and the comments (in stark contrast to Yahoo Finance). I am glad to see Barry address the serious problem of honey bees and the pollination of our food. But it is also interesting to note the lack of intelligence in the comments. Perhaps that underscores the importance of bringing this issue up.

    There are many parallels between the Great Wine Blight, where the Phylloxera louse from America nearly wiped out every wine grape in Europe between 1850 and 1900, and Colony Collapse Disorder today. Learn more at

  22. The truth is out there Barry.

    Some studies I’ve read attribute CCD to the overworked commercial bees having their immune systems compromised, making them more likely to fall prey to all sorts of viruses, mites, etc.

    So we need a bee union movement. Maybe get these bees some vacation time so they can relax and go to a few B-movies

    And the hive owners need to stop telling the bees the trip to California is a bee convention and a working vacation.

    Maybe we should call up Seinfeld to represent these poor creatures. He knows all about the plight of work till you die bees

  23. oldtimer says:

    CCD is a serious problem in Britain too. The test reports I have read point to monoculture and commercialism as being the main cause. Previous posters have elucidated far better than I can.
    It may interest you to know that flourishing bee colonies have now been established on the roofs of high rise buildings in the City of London. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall a well known food guru and TV chef, tested the results against commercially produced honey and that produced by hobby farmers. The city dwellers beat their country cousins hands down, both in terms of yield and preferred taste. The results were attributed to the fact that flowerbeds in tree-lined streets were within harvesting distance; providing a rich source of nectar, free from insectisides, and pesticides.

  24. Terry Beneke says:

    EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees

    The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined–electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.

    The document, which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warnings about the use of clothianidin, a pesticide produced by Bayer that mainly is used to pre-treat corn seeds. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers, who also use the substance on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat, according to Grist [1].

    The leaked document (PDF [2]) was put out in response to Bayer’s request to approve use of the pesticide on cotton and mustard. The document invalidates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothianidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees:

    Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.
    The entire 101-page memo is damning (and worth a read). But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn’t enough for the agency, which is allowing clothianidin to keep its registration.

    Suspicions about clothianidin aren’t new; the EPA’s Environmental Fate and Effects Division (EFAD) first expressed concern when the pesticide was introduced, in 2003, about the “possibility of toxic exposure to nontarget pollinators [e.g., honeybees] through the translocation of clothianidin residues that result from seed treatment.” Clothianidin was still allowed on the market while Bayer worked on a botched toxicity study [PDF [3]], in which test and control fields were planted as close as 968 feet apart.

    Clothianidin has already been banned by Germany, France, Italy, and Slovenia for its toxic effects. So why won’t the EPA follow? The answer probably has something to do with the American affinity for corn products. But without honey bees, our entire food supply is in trouble.


    Beekeeper Who Leaked EPA Documents: “I Don’t Think We Can Survive This Winter” [3]

    Timeline of a Bee Massacre: EPA Still Allowing Hive-Killing Pesticide [4]

    Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter [5] or by email [6].


  25. Vergennes - VT says:

    Dear Mr. Ritholz,
    I have a close friend who is a well known bee keeper, KW. He doesn’t use any pesticides to kill mites anymore. He uses a very specific breeding program to strengthen his hives. Without the use of the pesticides, atleast at first, his winter losses were greater than many other apiaries in the area. Of course very complicated, basically he just uses the strongest survivors as breeding stock. Interestingly, he sometimes will buy a USDA bee for breeding to limit inbreeding.

    Anyways…. I would like to address something ‘norkot2003′ wrote. While the cellphone could be the culprit, also likely is that when the bees fly and then return, they will go to where the hive originally was. When you split a hive to make two it is good to move the new one entirely out of the area because the bees will return to the original hive, weakening the new hive. When bees fly and realize they are not in familiar territory they will get acclimated, but if they recognize their surroundings they are programmed (so-to-speak) to go straight back to where they came from. I could go on and on with examples of this…

    Great topic!

    Take care,
    Vergennes, VT

  26. Vergennes - VT says:

    oh yea, and the mites are becoming resistant to the pesticides used for mites causing many commercial apiaries to use more or stronger pesticides. Actually a lot of ‘pests’ are becoming resistance (bacteria, weeds, insects)….

  27. Tim says:

    Honey Bees are invasives in the New World.
    They were called ‘white man’s flies’ by the natives here.

    Note I am not passing judgment on them. Just noting that as is often the case with invasives, Mother Nature fights back with a vengeance at things that might not perhaps be local.

    Fascinating stuff!



  28. Long term says:


    good one. i had not heard about it.

  29. jlayton says:

    On October 6, 2010, the New York Times reported on a collaboration between the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Warfare Center in Maryland and researchers at University of Montana and Montana State University, indicating that it appears that co-infection by a virus (Iridoviridae) and one of two fungi (Nosema Apis or N. Ceranae) are likely culprits of CCD. Here is a link to the article in PLoS:

    Urban hives are not necessarily the answer, either. Check out this link to see one pitfall:

    While honeybees may not be native to the U.S., they have become absolutely essential to our agriculture. Wally is right that plants do not require pollination by honeybees. However, for many crops, honeybees are much better pollinators than any of the indigenous alternatives. So, unless we want crop yields to decline precipitously, we had better figure this out.

  30. zot23 says:

    Further to what Terry B was saying above, I took a 10 week bee keeping seminar in Colorado this Fall. It was taught by several beekeepers in the area, headed up by a semi-famous “Colorado Beekeeper”. We discussed many aspects of the hobby of beekeeping as well as the recent rash of colony disease and die off. Clothianidin was discussed at length.

    What seems to be happening is the clothianidin is part of the corn, on the seed husk, and is not supposed to spread naturally (that is, not supposed to reproduce in next year’s volunteer corn crop), this has been false. Clothianidin does inhabit the pollen and can be spread to new plants (and oddly enough, can ‘pop up’ in nearby non-corn crops and weeds. That’s some spooky shit gentlemen.) Although Honey Bees do NOT collect pollen from corn (corn uses very small wind born pollen to reproduce, there is no nectar to attract the bees), the bees do get a certain amount collected on their bodies as they fly around doing their duties. When they clean themselves and push all the collected flower pollen into a ball for storage, it has plenty of corn pollen (and clothianidin) mixed in. As they eat this pollen, they get sick but since it is the middle of summer the colony recovers (as soon as corn stops pollenating, the bees get better as they will always eat fresh pollen when available and drink nectar instead of honey.) But in the winter, when they return to these pollen reserves for survival to spring, they get sick again. Since they are eating this pollen for protein all winter, the sickness snowballs and by spring, whamo! the entire colony collapses.

    You’d think whether you believed this or not it would warrant pulling clothianidin off the market to see what happens to the bees, every third bite of food we eat is directly dependent on bees as a gating item. This could be rooted out very quickly, bees do not usually keep reserves of pollen beyond one winter (they prefer it fresh, fresh, fresh) so the colonies would flush completely in 2-3 years.