Bee colony losses peaked at 36 percent in 2007, part of a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder. While the causes are still being studied, it is generally understood that a soup of multiple stressors are to blame, including disease, a parasite called the varroa mite, pesticides, extreme weather and poor nutrition due to loss of forage plants.
Mark Winston, a biologist and the director of the Center for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, says humans can learn from colony collapse research to prevent a similar fate.
"The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds," he wrote in The New York Times.
3 things humans can learn from the bee colony collapse
1. Bees put the colony before the individual.
"If we would put the best needs of society ahead of the needs of the individual, I think we would find a lot of problems we face as humans would be fairly easily solved," Winston said on The Daily Circuit.
2. Excessive management of agriculture is harmful.
"We do need to recognize that the more we manage, the more problems we cause that need to be managed," he said, which leads to a descending spiral.
3. Take advantage of natural services.
"Beyond honeybees, there are thousands of wild bee species that could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture," he wrote in The New York Times. "Yet feral bees -- that is, bees not kept by beekeepers -- also are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees: heavy pesticide use, destruction of nesting sites by overly intensive agriculture and a lack of diverse nectar and pollen sources thanks to highly effective weed killers, which decimate the unmanaged plants that bees depend on for nutrition."