Due to the unusually harsh winter, up to 70% of honey bees in the Midwest may be dead.
While California logged its warmest winter on record, seven Midwest states registered a Top 10 coldest winter. These states include Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.
Beekeepers in these areas are now reporting hive losses of up to 70%. Iowa news station KCCI reports:
Iowa beekeeper Mike Swett, of Squaw Creek Honey told KCCI, “It’s devastating. When I came out and saw my loss, I mean you literally just cry.”
Swett said the majority of his 25 honeybee hives are now full of dead bees.
“I have dead bees, and I still have combed honey here and the bees are just basically starved to death,” said Swett.
Some of Squaw Creek Honey is produced near Swett’s Ames house. Out of a total of six hives there, only one is thriving.
“Last year I probably lost 8 to 10 percent of my bees. This year, I’m seeing 60 percent loss,” said Swett.
Swett estimates his losses to have cost him $60,000 to $100,000.
Iowa beekeeper Bob Wolff called the winter of 2013 the worst winter he has ever seen for the honeybee population. The volunteer beekeeper at the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids told The Gazette newspaper that only two of the 12 hives he kept still remain. Wolff estimates that the colony experienced a 60-70 percent loss overall.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture told KCCI that extreme weather conditions played a significant role in the deaths of “weaker, sicker, or malnourished” honeybee colonies. Andrew Joseph, a bee researcher for the agency estimates the loss at 70 percent or more for beekeepers in the state.
Honey bees are critical to food production because they pollinate plants, allowing them to grow and produce food. Without honey bees, there would be no food.
The news of larger-than-average bee deaths is discouraging, especially since California’s honey bee population has dropped by 30-40%.
One thing is for sure… this trend can’t continue without having significant impacts on U.S. food production. Experts say the significant loss of honey bees could lead to higher food prices.
This is yet one more reason why it makes good sense to have food stored up to last at least 2-3 months, and longer if possible.
Don’t be scared. Be prepared.