A Project for Better Journalism chapter

The harsh effects of the bee massacre

Earlier this month, two adolescent boys, age 12 and 13, were charged with criminal mischief, offenses to an agricultural animal facility, burglary, and a misdemeanor for possessing burglary tools, after destroying 50 beehives on a bee farm in Sioux City, Iowa.

This act left 500,000 bees dead and racked up a total of $60,000 in damage.

The boys broke into the bee farm on December 27, 2017 and destroyed 50 beehives by turning over and smashing them, leaving the bees to freeze to death in the freezing temperatures. The bees were found frozen in clumps as they had tried desperately to stay warm by huddling together.

Besides destroying the beehives, the boys also ransacked the beekeeper’s supply shed.

This is just one case of the many bee farms and hives vandalized by vandals in the U.S.  over the past few years.

Another case occurred earlier this month in California. Reportedly 100 beehives were overturned, killing 200,000 honeybees which were also covered in diesel fuel.

These cases are becoming increasingly more dangerous as nine species of bees are currently on the endangered species list in the U.S., including; the bombus affinis (rusty patched bumble bee), hylaeus longiceps (long head yellow-faced bee), hylaeus facilis (easy yellow-faced bee), hylaeus assimulans (Assimulans yellow-faced bee), hylaeus anthracinus (anthricinan yellow-faced bee), hylaeus hilaris (Hilaris yellow-faced bee), hylaeus kuakea (Hawaiian bumblebee), hylaeus mana (Hawaiian yellow-faced bumblebee), and the bombus franklini (Franklin’s bumblebee). Out of these nine populators, seven of them are Hawaiian native.

And the population of bees and number of beehives has been on a steep decline over the past couple of years.

Beekeepers in the 2015-2016 season reported to have lost 44 percent of their honeybee colonies during the year. This was a 3.5 percent increase from the previous season. The winter loss rates increased by six percent and summer loss rates increased by three percent from the previous year. The 2015-2016 season was the second worst year for bee loss, following the 2013-2014 season.

Many will say that the main cause of bee death is climate change, but the main cause is actually linked to humans.

The leading cause of bee death is the use of pesticides in their habitat. Neonicotinoid, also known as NNI, pesticides are the main pesticides fatally affecting the bee population and has been linked to bee death. These pesticides have been shown to mentally damage the bees, leaving them confused and unsure on how to navigate the world. NNI pesticides are also being linked to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when the worker bees completely abandon their hive, leaving plenty of food and a few nurse bees to tend to the larvae and queen bee. The abandonment occurs over the period of a few weeks and the main cause of this disease is unknown. Regardless of being a main cause to Colony Collapse Disorder, NNI pesticides are shown to have some influence on the disease.

Stress on bees caused by human activity has also been leading to the mass death of bees. This stress is caused by environmental conditions such as pollution, lack of pollen, and exposure to lethal amounts of pesticides. This stress is also caused by bee management– the transportation of the bees for commercial population and overcrowded bee yards.

As much as humans are to blame, other natural factors, such as parasites and diseases have been linked to the mass death of bees and possibly Colony Collapse Disorder.

Very few regulations have been put into place to protect bees, the main one being the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) act to protect pollinators, which protects bees from pesticides and dust applications while the bees are under contract for pollination services.

While this does not protect all bees, it ensures the protection of at least the harvested bees.

Bees are the world’s most important pollinators as they pollinate one-third of the world’s crops.

Not only are they important for the Earth, but also for the world’s economic value. Bees contribute to more than 24 billion dollars to the United State’s economy, alone.

This being said, scientists have reported that humans would not last more than around four years in bees go extinct.

With the few regulations in place to protect these bountiful pollinators, the protection of bees is left on the shoulders of us humans to protect them.

A few ways to help save bees is by; avoiding the use of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, buying local or raw honey from local beekeepers if possible, planting gardens with native and bee friendly plants, avoiding planting lawns and avoid weeding your gardens, and install a small water basin to help keep bees refreshed and happy.

Make sure to include a few rocks and floaters to your water basin to keep the bees from drowning!

Most importantly, be sure to educate yourself and others about the importance of bees. We depend on them more than most think!