The nation’s honey bees are still in trouble, a report released Tuesday shows.
Beekeepers reported losing 44 percent of their total number of colonies managed over the last year, close to the highest annual loss in the past six years.
The Bee Informed Partnership, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report. The results are preliminary and could change.
The losses are considered too high to be sustainable for U.S. agriculture and the beekeeping industry. Bees colonies have been decimated in recent years by the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, vampires mites, nutritional deficiencies and pesticides.
“These honey bee losses reinforce what science continues to tell us; we must take immediate action to restrict pesticides contributing to bee declines,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth.
“The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes. If we do not suspend neonicotinoid pesticides immediately, we risk losing our beekeepers and harming important ecosystem functions upon which our food supply depends,” Finck-Haynes said.
A May 2015 report found that beekeepers lost 42.1 percent of the total number of colonies managed from
April 2014 through April 2015, much higher than the 34.2 percent the year before.
Honey production was down 12 percent in 2015 from 2014 to 157 million pounds for operations with five or more colonies, the USDA said in March.
A large and growing body of science has attributed alarming bee declines to several key factors, including exposure to the world’s most widely used class of insecticides, neonicotinoids.
States, cities, universities, businesses and federal agencies in the U.S. have passed measures to restrict the use of these pesticides due to delay by the EPA. However, the pesticides are still widely used despite mounting evidence that they kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens and other stressors.
In April 2015 the EPA announced a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonicotinoids while it evaluates the risks posed to pollinators. In January the EPA released its preliminary pollinator risk assessment for the neonicotinoid imidacloprid and found it poses risks to honey bees.