[DIGEST: Bloomberg, IFLS, Washington Post, Phys.org, Bloomberg]

The number of commercial U.S. honeybees is on the rise, and the number of deaths to the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) is down, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture honeybee health survey released earlier this month. But it’s not all coming up roses for America’s bees.


Some good news for bees

According to the survey, the number of commercial U.S honeybee colonies rose three percent to 2.89 million as of April 1. In April of 2016, the number was 2.8 million.

Most of the drop in the honeybee population can be attributed to parasites and disease. Varroa mites, a bloodsucking parasite, have affected 42 percent of commercial hives between April and June 2017. A big number, but not as big as in 2016, when around 53 percent of hives were affected. Other types of mites or pests affected another 11.6 percent.

But the most mysterious cause of the honeybee population’s decline is colony collapse disorder. In this phenomenon, the majority of worker bees abandon the hive, leaving behind the queen, immature bees, plenty of food, and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining bees. At its peak, in 2008, roughly 60 percent of hives were lost to the disorder. Their numbers have been steadily decreasing since. Through June 2017, about 119,000 colonies were lost to the disorder—about a 27 percent decrease from the same period in 2016.

What do these numbers really mean?

It’s important to note that the survey focuses only on commercial beekeepers, and not the population of bees as a whole. (Wild bees, however, also seem to be on the decline.) The rise in colonies says little about the number of bees overall, since the increase was caused by beekeepers adding more honeybees to their colonies, or splitting their colonies, to make up for the stark losses in earlier years.

Justin Fox, writing for Bloomberg, also noted that the growing number of casual “backyard beekeepers” may artificially inflate the percentages of loss. These beekeepers may not have sufficient experience to properly care for the honeybees, which can lead to greater than expected losses.

However, even well-run, knowledgeable corporate beekeepers continue to lose about 25 percent of their honeybees.

So what’s causing these high losses?

While colony collapse disorder caused a stir in the media, due to the initial high losses and its dramatic nature, May Berenbaum, head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois, called colony collapse disorder “more of a blip in the history of beekeeping.”

Instead, the bigger concern is that “half of America’s bees have mites. Colony collapse disorder has been vastly overshadowed by diseases, recognizable parasites and diagnosable physiological problems.”

Researchers aren’t sure why more honeybees are succumbing to these problems, but many suspect that pesticides are at least partially to blame. By the late 1990s, nicotinoid pesticides were the most widely used insecticides in the world. While tests showed that exposure to the insecticide did not kill bees outright, subsequent research has shown that nicotinoids weaken bees. In one field study sponsored by Bayer, the company that produces one of these nicotinoid pesticides, researchers found that moderate exposure “reduces overwintering success and colony reproduction in both honeybees and wild bees.”

While pesticides are likely a major contributing factor (although Bayer disputes it, Scott Pruitt’s EPA is looking into it), researchers aren’t sure what else may be contributing. Some speculate that the decrease in wildflowers and native plants is weakening bees. Other factors, like stress and weather, are likely at work too.

“It’s really tricky” to figure out the factors affecting the population, said May. “Maybe it’s pesticides, maybe it’s not. But when I eliminate everything else, it’s a distinct possibility.”

Win McNamee/Getty Images // CBS Television Distribution

In December, President Donald Trump established the United States Space Force, a sixth branch of the United States Army.

The goal of the force is to protect United States assets in outer space from foreign rivals and is slated to cost around $2 billion in the next five years.

Today, Trump unveiled the official logo for the Space Force, but people think it bears a striking resemblance to another iconic symbol.

Keep reading...
Preston Ehrler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images // JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

People were stunned this past July when President Donald Trump tweeted that four Congresswomen of color—Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)—should "go back" to where they came from.

He also falsely claimed they "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe..."

Three of the Congresswomen were born in the United States. Omar was a refugee from Somalia. All are Americans.

At a campaign rally days later in North Carolina, President Donald Trump mentioned Congresswoman Omar—and got a strong reaction from the crowd.

While bigotry is common at a Trump rally, it became even more blatant when Trump's supporters began chanting "Send her back," echoing the calls from Trump's tweet for them to "go back" to where they came from.

Keep reading...
Fox News

As Democratic House impeachment managers make their case against President Donald Trump, one of his favorite news networks is going to lengths to keep the bevy of evidence against him from reaching their viewers' ears.

At first, Fox News tried scrolling Trump's so-called accomplishments alongside live video of the historic proceedings. Now, the network's latest attempt to distract from the Democrats' arguments is raising eyebrows even higher.

Keep reading...
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images // Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was one of the first witnesses in the House of Representatives' initial impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Vindman testified before the House's select committee on impeachment late last year after hearing Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Keep reading...
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The administration of President Donald Trump relies on its white Evangelical base to keep its support consistently hovering around 40 percent.

In keeping with this, President Donald Trump often invokes anti-abortion values he claims to hold dear. He's falsely claimed that Democrats are determined to rip babies from their mothers' wombs and that parents often discuss with their doctors whether or not to keep the baby...after the baby is born.

These claims are patently false, but they rile up the base.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seems to be playing right along in promoting abortion hysteria, if a recent speech is any indication.

Keep reading...
Fox News

After hours of evidence presented by the House Impeachment managers in the Senate trial against President Donald Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) strayed even further into the abyss of fanaticism as he defended the President to reporters.

Graham, a Trump critic turned ally, didn't attempt to refute any of the myriad evidence laid out by Democrats, but instead dismissed the claims that Trump did anything wrong when he withheld congressionally approved aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into his political rival.

Keep reading...