There’s been reports made in various publications about significant bee population number declines.
In the guide below, we summarise whether bees are actually endangered or at risk of extinction, and what the reality about bee population numbers might be.
This guide compliments a separate guide we put together on what the main causes of bee population decline might be.
Summary – Are Bees Endangered, & Will They Go Extinct?
Are Bees Endangered Right Now?
In summary, there’s only a very small number of bee species that have had ‘Endangered Species Warnings’ issued for them i.e. put on the ‘endangered species’ list.
That number is about 8 species out of 25,000 species globally.
The US honeybee isn’t one of the species identified as being endangered. This is noteworthy because they are the species that the pollinates majority of US crops
Are Bees Going To Go Extinct?
Based on current data, only the bee species that are currently on the ‘endangered list’ might be at risk of extinction at some point if something isn’t done to ensure their population numbers increase.
The Variables In Bee Endangerment & Extinction
Bee species endangerment and extinction can differ by:
– Bee species, or sub species
– Region or location (State/county, country, etc)
– Time period (population numbers can increase or decrease over different time periods)
Based on the above factors and variables, it might not be accurate enough to say that bees in general are endangered or at risk of going extinct.
The specific bee species, and location and time period should at least be identified too.
Explaining The Temporary Population Decline Of The US Honeybee Species
There was a short term/temporary US bee population numbers decline that lasted only a few years – about 3-5 years, between 2006 to 2011.
This collapse was due to Colony Collapse Disorder
Bee colony numbers stabilised or increased shortly after though.
There’s also been other periods of time where certain bee species have experienced temporary/short term declines in population, before stabilising or increasing.
Causes Of Bee Population Decline, Endangerment & Potential Extinction
The main causes and threats bee species population decline differs from place to place as well.
It’s also not always possible to say for sure what the main causes of bee population decline are – sometimes only an educated guess can be made with research, observation and real time studies or tests.
Read more about the main causes of bee population decline in this guide.
Population Decline vs Endangerment vs Extinction
There’s a different between population decline, endangerment, and extinction
A decline is a general decrease in the population over a specific time period, without the population being endangered or going into extinction
The CCD that impacted honey bees might be a good example of a temporary decline in bee population numbers
Endangerment is a decline in the population to the point population numbers are low enough that the species is considered an ‘endangered species’ and is usually added to the endangered species list in that region
The Hawaiian Yellow-Faced Bee and Rusty Patched Bumble Bee species endangerment scenarios listed in this guide might be good examples of endangerment
Extinction is a complete termination or loss of the species
Temporary vs Permanent Population Decline
Some population declines only last a year, or a few years, before population numbers stabilise and/or increase again. These are temporary declines
Permanent declines are year on year declines that last for a specific period, and may lead to the endangerment or extinction of the species
It’s also worth noting that bee population numbers can go up and down seasonally – honey bee loss for example is expected over the winter months.
Potential Solutions To Preserving Bee Population Numbers
There’s also options available to preserve bee population numbers in certain regions around the world
Are Bees Endangered?
In reality, there are around 25,000 species of bees in the world, and around 400 species in the US alone (buzzaboutbees.net)
What is clear is that only a small number of species of bees (8) are currently on the ‘endangered species list’.
One example is several species of the Hawaiian Yellow-Faced Bees.
Another example is the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.
The US honey bee has not been placed [yet] on the endangered list.
Hawaiian Yellow-Faced Bees
[On 30 September 2016] Seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees were recently added to the endangered species list
… it is the first time any bee species from the United States has been listed as an endangered species
[It is believed endangerment was caused by] a wide variety of threats, including habitat destruction because of urbanization or non-native animals, the introduction of nonnative plant species, wildfires, nonnative predators and natural events such as hurricanes, tsunamis and drought.
[But] … Bees as a class of insect have not been added to the endangered species list.
Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
agdaily.com also notes that:
‘… recently, in addition to the Hawaiian yellow-faced bees, the Rusty patched bumble bee has been placed on the endangered list too’
[They note] ‘habitat loss, natural disasters, and invasive species [are believed to be the causes].’
Will Bees Go Extinct In The Future?
Whether or not endangered bee species will go extinct in the future will depend on how individual bee species populations are managed and impacted by humans
There can also be natural factors at play too though, such as changing local weather patterns, a changing climate, temperature changes, and more.
What About Honey Bees – Are They Endangered & Will They Go Extinct?
In terms of honey bee population numbers – they don’t appear to be in any threat of extinction or even endangerment right now.
US, Canadian and Global honey bee species colony numbers have either increased, or stayed stable, over time, and especially recently.
[A report in] 2017 show bee numbers sitting at a 20-year high (agdaily.com)
Further numbers and graphs on honey bees can be found at:
The Bee Apocalypse Was Never Real – Here’s Why (acsh.org)
Bees Shouldn’t Become The Next Fake News Victim (acsh.org)
There have been some temporary honey bee population number declines in specific locations over the period of a few years, but population numbers either stabilised or increased thereafter.
agdaily.com provides some insight on the temporary honey bee population collapse:
CCD, which lasted for about 3-5 years, is a sudden phenomenon in which the majority of worker bees mysteriously disappear.
That problem, which showed up most dramatically in California, abated by 2011
The research showed that since 2006, when CCD [colony collapse disorder] was identified, the number of honeybee colonies has risen, from 2.4 million that year to 2.7 million in 2014.
What Makes Bees In General, & The US Honey Bee So Important As A Bee Species?
The US Honey Bee might be important from an economic, agricultural, and social perspective because:
One out of every three bites of food Americans consume comes from a plant pollinated by bees or other pollinators.
Economically, it’s estimated that $15 billion crops annually are pollinated in the U.S., with bees doing almost 80 percent of the work. (siouxhoney.com)
Globally, bees pollinate 70 of the 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops (bbc.com)
Almonds are the major crop that honey bees pollinate in the US
There are other pollinators that pollinate crops and plant life apart from bees too though
Bees and pollinators may be one of the more important types of animals in a practical sense when looking at the function they have, and how that function impacts humans, society, and different ecosystems
Other Pollinators Besides Bees – What Are The Options?
According to theverge.com, robotic drone pollinators have been made – but have only been tested in laboratories so far.
They are a long way off being ready for in field pollination
According to geneticliteracyproject.org, human pollination (by humans) is another option – whereby the pollinating is intentional and manual.
There are also other animal pollinators such as flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and wasps.
However, bees currently perform majority of the pollination in countries like the US.
General Information About Pollination
The process of pollination involves bees flying to a plant or crop, collecting nectar, and fertilizing the plant of crop, and returning to the hive
Different pollinators might be far better suited to pollinating certain plant and crop types than others – this is why when pollinators are forced to migrate to other habitats (because of threats or temperature change), both plant life and the bees themselves can suffer
Other Notes About Bees In General, & Honey Bees
– There’s different types of beekeepers – large commercial, intermediate, and backyard amateur beekeepers – all with different levels of expertise and resources
– Honey bees are not actually native to the US – they were introduced from Europe
– Honey bees are bred for agriculture in a similar way as livestock. They are bred for honey, and to provide an agricultural services to pollinate farmers’ crops.
– In the US, In 1988, honey sales accounted for 52 percent of beekeeper revenue while pollinator service fees made up less than 11 percent. Today, pollination service fees make up over 41 percent, the largest source of beekeeper revenue. Of that, 82 percent comes from almonds. (acsh.org)