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In 2013 Time magazine wrote

A World Without Bees: The Price We’ll Pay If We Don’t Figure Out What’s Killing the Honeybee.

In 2021 New York Post writes

Why the honey bee ‘apocalypse’ is based on a lie

In 2021 MPR news writes

An annual survey of beekeepers shows honey bees continue to die at high rates.

  • Is the honeybee population suffering collapse?
  • If so, when do the predictions indicate extinction?
  • If not, what is the origin of alarm?
  • If it's complicated, what's going on?

Edit: By collapse as well as apocalypse, I mean significant reduction in population numbers. In extreme case, this includes potential for extinction.

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    At the moment the question is "Is this <ill-defined term> real?" I would like that to change to something more specific and measurable. "Are honey-bee populations headed for extinction?" or "Are honey-bee populations dropping?" or "Are honey-bee hive death rates high?"
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 2, 2023 at 10:05
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    That way, hypothetical answers like "Hives are collapsing at a much higher rate than 50 years ago, and bee-keepers are running more hives to make up for it. There is a serious problem, and yet it isn't heading for extinction." or "Bee-keepers have been running hives in less ideal locations so the collapse rate has increased, but there is no indication of a new problem." are valid, and don't have to be in terms of "apocalypses".
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 2, 2023 at 10:07
  • @Oddthinking The specific question at the end of the question is 'Is honeybee population suffering collapse'. Suffering collapse seemed pretty evident to me, but maybe as English is my 3rd language it might have more room of interpretation.
    – pinegulf
    Mar 2, 2023 at 10:07
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    My understanding is that "Colony Collapse Disorder" is something that happens to an individual colony, rather than the whole bee population.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 2, 2023 at 10:08
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    Very few species of bees actually produces honey. The OP uses the term honey bee and bees interchangibly. Which is incorrect.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 9, 2023 at 17:59

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There is an ongoing honey bee population and dependency crisis, according to some scientific literature. (Whether that amounts to an "apocalypse" is a matter of opinion.) The gist is that, in many parts of the world natural honeybee populations have drastically declined as agricultural production dependent on pollination and therefore on beekeeper-managed hives has grown.

Here is an excerpt from the review paper Global honeybee health decline factors and potential conservation techniques in Springer Food Security from January 2023:

Given the vital role of honeybees in maintaining food security, population decline and conservation of honeybees have gained exponentially increasing concern over the past several decades (Cameron & Sadd, 2020). Multiple surveys have shown that the number of honeybee colonies in the USA and Europe has experienced a consistent collapse between the 1960s and 2000s by approximately 50% and 25%, respectively (Potts et al., 2010; Vanengelsdorp & Meixner, 2009). In recent years, high colony loss rates beyond the acceptable level were identified in several countries across North America, South America, and Europe (Castilhos et al., 2019; Gray et al., 2020; Kulhanek et al., 2017). Among more resource-restrained countries such as China, Brazil, and Ethiopia, honeybee decreases are less severe since there are adequate economic stimuli for beekeepers to protect against honeybee health issues. The economic loss from the honeybee decline is nevertheless noticeable. In those countries, a winter colony loss of 8.7% (below the world average) would amount to a 0.12% decline in GDP in the long term (Gray et al., 2020; Lippert et al., 2021; Tang et al., 2020). While there is no pronounced evidence for a pollination crisis at current levels of loss, a challenging goal of elevating 70% of food production by mid-century is not likely to be fulfilled without a sustainable pollination service (Mc Carthy et al., 2018). As dependence on pollination continues to grow, a pollination deficit caused by dwindling honeybee populations will exacerbate the problem of food availability and quality.

This builds on the more commonly cited review paper Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers from 2010 by Potts, et.al. which concluded (in part):

There is clear evidence of recent declines in both wild and domesticated pollinators, and parallel declines in the plants that rely upon them. Here we describe the nature and extent of reported declines, and review the potential drivers of pollinator loss, including habitat loss and fragmentation, agrochemicals, pathogens, alien species, climate change and the interactions between them.

Which noted:

There is clear evidence for severe regional declines in domestic honey bee stocks in the USA (59% loss of colonies between 1947 and 2005, 6, 7) and Europe (25% loss of colonies in central Europe between 1985 and 2005, [8]) making the dependence of agricultural crops, and possibly wild plants, on a single species worrisome.

And in 2006 there was a National Academy of Sciences report on the Status of Pollinators which summarized:

There is evidence of decline in the abundance of some pollinators, but the strength of this evidence varies among taxa. Long-term population trends for several wild bee species (notably bumble bees) and some butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds are demonstrably downward.

The report notes that part of the U.S. response to the lack of domestic honeybees was to import honeybees and to seasonally move hives around inside the country, which exacerbated existing problems by introducing new pests and predators and distributing them around inside the country. This also raised the costs of maintaining healthy hives.

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