KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows bees continue disappearing at an alarming rate. One Missouri beekeeper lost half his hives.
"For me, it has been the worst year," said Don Tilman. That is a big statement for a man who has been beekeeping for fifty years.
The USDA reported this week that more than 23 percent of managed bee colonies in the U.S. didn't survive the winter. That is an improvement from last year but the eight year average of almost 30 percent loss, which officials are calling unsustainable.
Bees, the USDA reports, pollinate more than 30 percent of our food and support $15 billion in agriculture production. USDA officials like Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack say bees are crucial to the country's food supply.
Why bees are disappearing is a continued point of controversy.
Tilman won't set his hives next to corn anymore. He's afraid pesticides might cause his bees to get lost and die. He isn't alone. The European Union temporarily banned the use of Neonicotinoids until more research can be done. More than 60 United States lawmakers are behind a bill to suspend use of them until the EPA can determine they are safe.
Critics argue there is no hard evidence pesticides are harmful to bees and many say that if pesticides are a problem, they are only part of it.
"It was just too darn cold," Tilman said. Even he believes the harsh winter was his main culprit this year along with mites and other pests.