The Beepocalypse Is Over

Fifteen or twenty years ago, and for some years following, there was a great deal of publicity about bee colonies dying out. The cause of the decline was unclear, but most people assumed it was somehow our fault. Where I live, “Save the Bees” signs started cropping up in yards and in front of apartment dwellings, along with “All Are Welcome Here” and “We Believe In Science.” Some people let their lawns go wild, not, as one might suspect, because they were too lazy to mow, but because they hoped a weed-filled lawn would be good habitat for bees.

But it seems the signs can come down now, as the Washington Post headlines: “Wait, does America suddenly have a record number of bees?”

After almost two decades of relentless colony collapse coverage and years of grieving suspiciously clean windshields, we were stunned to run the numbers on the new Census of Agriculture (otherwise known as that wonderful time every five years where the government counts all the llamas): America’s honeybee population has rocketed to an all-time high.

We’ve added almost a million bee colonies in the past five years. We now have 3.8 million, the census shows. Since 2007, the first census after alarming bee die-offs began in 2006, the honeybee has been the fastest-growing livestock segment in the country! And that doesn’t count feral honeybees, which may outnumber their captive cousins several times over.

The accompanying chart is interesting, not only for the bee numbers:

What is the deal with llamas? Is it time to put up “Save the Llamas” signs? Are facing a llamapocalypse? I’m not sure why there were llama herds in the first place, so it is hard to know why they have declined. In any event, it seems we can breathe a sigh of relief on behalf of the bees.

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