Does Climate Change Effect Bees?

Originally published for Oregon Climate on, February 2015

Global climate change is one of the most pressing threats to our managed honey bee populations, as well as our wild pollinators. Oregon has the rare opportunity to lead our country and the world with the policy economists and climatologists say we need. We can hold out-of-state polluters accountable for climate change with a price on carbon, either by charging them a fee or by requiring them to buy permits before they burn fossil fuels.

As an organization that works to conserve our bees, as well as the valuable agricultural landscapes they need to live on while pollinating 1/3 of food in the US, stabilization of the climate is a priority for us.   

Without action, our bees and beekeepers will continue to pay dearly for climate impacts:

  • Increasing temperatures brings a myriad of issues, including the drying up of important floral resources (bee food) and the decrease of available water sources, needed for proper function of the hive.

  • More frequent extreme heat days (>90°F): heat stress in the brood chamber.

  • Increased wildfires: bees will not fly to forage for nectar and pollen when air quality is extremely compromised.  

  • More frequent extreme rainfall events: flooding of hives and wild bee nests themselves, as well as the washing out of fields planted with floral resources.

  • Increased frequency of mid and late summer droughts: extended periods without floral resources leaves the beekeeper with the burden of feeding expensive sugar syrup, and wild un-managed bees with less and less food.  

  • Wetter winter & spring: wet winters can lead to mildew and disease in the hives and wild nests, prolonged wet springs equal less pollen and nectar foraging and the inability to raise a colony healthy enough to survive the year.  

  • Low frost of frost free seasons: increased pest pressure in the hives and nests, as well as in our agricultural landscapes, resulting in higher pesticide use.   

While beekeepers are working hard to mitigate and adapt to changes in the climate, at a cost to them, it is time for policy action that will help to indemnify their efforts.  Putting a fair and accurate price on carbon with full revenue return to beekeepers and their communities is an action plan that will be integral in saving our bees and our future.  

Oregon can lead the world with an effective solution to climate change, but our lawmakers must act now to prevent irreversible harm to our state and the planet. A revenue‐neutral fee on carbon pollution is the surest way to secure our clean energy future and hold polluters responsible for the droughts, wildfires, and extreme weather that they cause.

We join the Oregon Climate campaign to call on the Oregon State Legislature to levy a predictable, scientifically sound fee on carbon dioxide, and to return 100% of the revenue back to Oregonians in the form of an annual dividend.  

We hope that Oregon will model a carbon price and dividend for the rest of our country, powering a just, swift and lasting transition to a new energy economy.

Sarah Red-LairdComment