The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reports that the state lost 59.5 percent of its honeybee colonies last winter—the highest such loss since the state began tracking the metric in 2000. (Beekeepers expect to lose only about 15 percent of colonies in a normal winter.)
The disappearance of these honeybees has deleterious and wide-ranging effects. As Josh Dzieza reported in the January/February 2015 issue of Pacific Standard, honeybees act as flying impregnators for plant life. Bees also boost the value of crops they pollinate by roughly $15 billion, according to Department of Agriculture estimates reported by Dzieza, and are a key contributor to the growth of plums, cucumbers, pears, and avocados.
Virginia is not alone in its profound loss: 30 percent of managed honeybee colonies nationwide were lost last winter, which marks a 9.5 percent increase over the previous winter.
A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.