Walk into any office or home across the U.S. and one will likely find someone snacking on almonds, cashews, potato chips, celery, etc. While these common snack foods work to power us through the day and help quench that afternoon hunger, they also have something else in common: all of these snack foods are brought to you, in part, by bees.
In fact, honey bees enable the production of more than 90 commercially grown crops here in the United States. Around the world, more than one-third of food production relies on pollination, which is important to understand because, over the past 60 years, the number of honey bee colonies in the United States has decreased steadily.
While the decline in the bee population has become a headline recently, the fact is the U.S. has been dealing with a declining bee population for more than 60 years. In 1947, the U.S. was home to more than 6 million bee colonies; today, that number has dropped to roughly 2.5 million.
While the decline of the honey bee population is not necessarily new in the U.S., the rate of decline has picked up over the past 10 years. Since 2006, commercial beekeepers in the U.S. have experienced winter loss rates averaging 30 percent each winter, and the most recent statistics show this trend continuing as winter loss rates from 2015-2016 were approximately 28 percent. This figure is also daunting because it is nearly double the historical winter loss rates that typically fluctuated between 15 percent and 20 percent.