A dramatic drop in bee populations began in 2005, and a number of factors continue to create problems for this key pollinator to this day. Here is a history of the issue.
Bees populations had been in decline before 1997, but in 2005 a steep drop-off began raising alarms among environmentalists and the agricultural workers who depend of honeybees to pollinate crops such as almond and fruit trees. This set off a "pollinator panic" that led to bees being imported to the U.S. from New Zealand for the first time in 50 years.
The populations of bees continued to decline, with some apiaries reporting losses of 30 to 70 percent in different regions of the U.S. The phenomena came to be known as colony collapse disorder and a number of potential causes were debated. Pesticides were a primary suspect from the beginning, but viruses, invasive mites, fungus, cell phone signals and climate change were also discussed as possible factors.
Beekeepers in the U.K. and Europe also reported significant losses in their colonies.
Research into the causes of colony collapse disorder continues to focus on pesticides, although many questions remain. The Natural Resources Defense Council files lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for unpublished information about a pesticide made by Bayer CropScience. The suit eventually led to the publication of the missing Federal Register documents.
Because of bees importance in the human food chain, campaigns to "Save the Bees" pick up momentum. In the U.K., the Plan Bee campaign launched to demand government action, including money to research colony collapse disorder. As part of the campaign, The Co-operative, the largest co-op grocery chain in the country, bans the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides sold in stores.
Another campaign launched by Haagen-Dazs and ExperienceProject.com used social media to promote awareness about the problem.
France, Germany and Italy suspend the use of neonicotinoids as a "precautionary measure."