, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 434-445

First online:

Pathogens, Pests, and Economics: Drivers of Honey Bee Colony Declines and Losses

  • Kristine M. SmithAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance
  • , Elizabeth H. LohAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance
  • , Melinda K. RostalAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance
  • , Carlos M. Zambrana-TorrelioAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance
  • , Luciana MendiolaAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance
  • , Peter DaszakAffiliated withEcoHealth Alliance Email author 

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The Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is responsible for ecosystem services (pollination) worth US$215 billion annually worldwide and the number of managed colonies has increased 45% since 1961. However, in Europe and the U.S., two distinct phenomena; long-term declines in colony numbers and increasing annual colony losses, have led to significant interest in their causes and environmental implications. The most important drivers of a long-term decline in colony numbers appear to be socioeconomic and political pressure on honey production. In contrast, annual colony losses seem to be driven mainly by the spread of introduced pathogens and pests, and management problems due to a long-term intensification of production and the transition from large numbers of small apiaries to fewer, larger operations. We conclude that, while other causal hypotheses have received substantial interest, the role of pests, pathogens, and management issues requires increased attention.


honey bee colony loss Varroa management pollinator