PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A mysterious disease is killing off U.S. honeybees, threatening to disrupt pollination of a range of crops and costing beekeepers hundreds of thousands of dollars, industry experts reported last month.
Beekeepers in 22 states have reported losses of up to 80% of their colonies in recent weeks, leaving many unable to rent the bees to farmers of crops such as almonds and, later in the year, apples and blueberries.
“It’s unusual in terms of the widespread distribution and severity,” said Jerry Bromenshenk, a professor at the University of Montana at Missoula and chief executive of Bee Alert Technology, a company monitoring the problem.
The number of bees in a hive typically diminishes over a period of days to the point where there are very few or none left, Hackenberg said. There is no indication of where the bees have gone or what drove them away, he said.
“The rate of loss is startling,” said Jeff Pettis, a bee researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Maryland.
Pettis said the bees may have been killed off by a combination of factors including parasitic mites and a lack of nectar in pollen. Scientists are also looking into whether there is a link with significant recent bee losses in some European countries, particularly Spain.