, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 434–445 | Cite as

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

  • Kristine M. Smith
  • Elizabeth H. Loh
  • Melinda K. Rostal
  • Carlos M. Zambrana-Torrelio
  • Luciana Mendiola
  • Peter DaszakEmail author


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 



We acknowledge the beekeepers who took our survey as well as Jordan Levinson and Chia-Yi Hou of EcoHealth Alliance for assistance. Research was supported by a National Science Foundation Human and Social Dynamics “Agents of Change” award (SES-HSD-AOC “Human-related factors affecting emerging infectious diseases,” BCS—0826779), and by funding from the MARS Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, and Bayer Crop Science. Funders had no role in the data collection, analysis, nor in the preparation of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristine M. Smith
    • 1
  • Elizabeth H. Loh
    • 1
  • Melinda K. Rostal
    • 1
  • Carlos M. Zambrana-Torrelio
    • 1
  • Luciana Mendiola
    • 1
  • Peter Daszak
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.EcoHealth AllianceNew YorkUSA

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