Scientists are trying to understand why bees are producing less and less honey

PUSH honey production it has been in sharp decline worldwide since the 1980s and 1990s, but even beekeepers and scientists aren’t sure why. Several studies have attempted to investigate whether this may be an effect of climate change or use huge amount of pesticides in agriculture, but although these phenomena appear to be related to the decline in production, they do not in themselves explain the drastic decline observed in some areas of the world.

A new study about Penn State University therefore tried to better investigate this phenomenon. Posted on Environmental Research Letters by the team Gabriela Quinlan, David Miller and Christina M. Grozinger, this study found that changes in the honey yield of many colonies are directly linked to the use of herbicides. In fact, based on fifty years of data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service and the USDA Farm Service Agency, the Penn State team found an important link between the amount of pesticides used in agriculture in given areas. frequented by bees and a decrease in honey production.

American scientists clarify that i annual meteorological anomalies were important in influencing the variations observed in yields in each territory, but mainly the use of these chemicals explains the sudden drop in production observed over the years. This phenomenon has been confirmed both in the coastal and inland states of the United States, but also in areas exposed to “hot” and “cold” climatic conditions.

So all bees in the US have been affected by herbicides, but not all appear to be lost. In fact, regions that are not intensively cultivated or that have been abandoned by intensive farmers for several decades seem to have higher honey yields regardless of climatic conditions. Their hives produce more honey and their hives are healthier. Wild bees seem to be going through the same process, and the main explanation given by scientists for this phenomenon is that these lands, which are not affected by herbicides, are in turn more productive.

Countryside in a natural or semi-natural state, in fact, they produce more flowers and wild herbs. They are covered with a richer and more varied type of vegetation and their ecosystems can guarantee bees more nectar. This has a positive impact on the amount of honey produced and on the overall health of the insects themselves, who are no longer forced to travel far for the resources necessary to support the hive.

Gabriela Quinlan, the study’s lead author, said she found the courage and inspiration to conduct this study after attending several meetings with beekeepers who had long complained that they could no longer work as they once did. “It is unclear how climate change will continue to affect honey production, but our findings could help predict these changes,” she said. “For example, pollinators may be declining in the Great Plains as it warms.” in the mid-Atlantic as climate conditions warm and spring seasons lengthen.”

However, the most interesting discovery for the three scientists was to which it was attached soil productivity. Soil and its plant cover have actually been ignored in past research, although some of their characteristics – such as temperature, consistency, structure – help increase productivity and pollinator action. Finally, the researchers also emphasized the importance of ecological conversion of soy crops. Reduce land cultivated exclusively with soybeans, for example through Nature conservation program, a conservation program designed to support pollinators did exist extraordinary positive effects on the health of bee colonies and the yield of honey.

For the future, scientists would therefore conclude that it would be better to abandon the idea of ​​continuing to use herbicides massively and it would be useful to increase the hectares of fields cultivated with more traditional systems. In fact, this would allow bees to not only produce more honey, but also to reap numerous benefits for our agri-food production system, for biodiversity in general, and for ecosystems themselves.

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