Montana Public Radio

Honeybee Losses, Colony Collapse, And The Four 'P's

Jun 10, 2019

European honey bee (Apis mellifera) in flight, carrying pollen in its pollen basket. (GFDL 1.2)
Credit Muhammad Mahdi Karim

The Food Guys, Jon Jackson and Greg Patent, discuss the recent large-scale disappearance of European honey bees, both wild and managed.  Although the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder probably peaked in 2007, twelve years later, honeybee losses remain high, thanks to the “four p’s” — poor nutrition, pesticides, pathogens and parasites.

Many of our staple crops depend on pollination by honey bees; as Jon points out, about 40% of North American agriculture needs bees to survive. Some of the possible causes: pesticides (including pesticides injected directly into hives to combat mites); mites;  fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases; malnutrition caused by monoculture; and beekeeping practices in the U.S., where commercially-raised bees are trucked around the country to pollinate crops.

Some simple solutions could be at hand. Biologist Mark Winston writes about a study conducted by Simon Fraser University in which farmers intentionally left some cropland uncultivated for the benefit of nesting and foraging wild bees. The results: improved crop yields and profits for the farmers.

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 9/14/14 and 6/2/19.  Listen weekly on the radio at 9:53 a.m. Sundays, or via podcast.)