Where Have All the Honey Bees Gone?

Where Have All the Honey Bees Gone?
Posted on 06/18/2014
Honey USDA ChartAcross the world, bee populations have been declining due to a little understood phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. Bees play a vital role in pollinating crops, which in turn feed humans, only making their decline more worrisome because of the threat of famine due to crop failure.

Honey bees are involved in the production of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but less obvious is their involvement in the beef and dairy industries. Alfalfa, which is used for livestock feed, also requires pollination. Image on right: Honey bees annually pollinate $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the U.S.

Students at Media Arts Studio wanted to know more, so they invited the founder of Boston’s Best Bees, bee scientist Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, into the studio for an interview. Watch the entire studio interview here. Wilson-Rich seeks to reverse the effects of CCD by replenishing the bee population in Eastern Massachusetts through installing and managing bee hives throughout Greater Boston. Image below: Hive photo showing colony collapse; courtesy of Linda Tillman.

Bee hiveIn parts 1 and 2 of “Where Have All the Honeybees Gone” Robert conducts an interview with Wilson-Rich, to find out the details of CCD and how it affects us (listen to part 1; listen to part 2). Farmers are sometimes forced to rent bees or pollinate plants by hand, causing certain foods such as almonds to become more expensive and rare. Images below: Logo courtesy of Best Bees; Almond blossom courtesy of mhobl.

Best Bees logoSophia and the Visualizing Science class sat down with Ashia, Follow the Honey intern, to talk about the importance of bee pollination and the dangerous decline of bee population that directly correlates to human survival. Ashia, who will be studying food policy at Syracuse University next year, goes on to explain how bee pollination is key for human survival due to the fact that without bees we would not have vegetables, meat, and fruits. Bee population decline results in food deserts, where urban communities only have access to highly processed foods nearby, where they cannot buy affordable or high quality fresh food.

Almond blossomRobert and the Youth View Cambridge team visited local business Follow the Honey. Learn more about what captivates other people about bees, and see the variety of items made with bee products


  • Only female honey bees sting.
  • If the queen honey bee is removed from the hive, within 15 minutes, the rest of the colony know about it.
  • Each honey bee makes about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  • The honey bee is the only insect that produces a food eaten by man.
  • Worldwide, there are 10 types of honey bees and one hybrid of the Africanized bee.
  • The honey bee is one of the most studied creatures in the world after man!

Despite there being 20,000 species of bees in the world, honey bees could be going extinct. The loss of honey bees altogether will greatly impact agriculture and a corner of certain countries' economies, such as Argentina from which most of America’s honey is imported. Find out what scientists are doing to prevent CCD and why urban beekeeping is so important. Listen to part 3 and part 4 of podcast with Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D.

A Collaboration of Media Arts Studio First Work Students and Visualizing Science Classroom

Visiting Artist: Beverly Mire
Instructors: Angelica Brisk, Ross Matthei, and Ingrid Stobbe
First Works Students: Robert Brown, Gaele Vincent, Muhammad Senhadji, Devonte Richards, and Giovanni Jajoute
Video Editor: Giovanni Jajoute
Visualizing Science Class: Sara Abub-Rubieh, Noah Chisholm, Elise Douangmany, Eleanor McCartney, Anisha Nakagawa, Rio Nelson, Sophia Roderick, and Raphael Rothman
Copy Editor: Eleanor McCartney
Note: Title image of honeycombs on videos and slideshow courtesy of Christian Bauer

Funding provided by 484 Phi Alpha Foundation and Cambridge Arts Council