More than a quarter of American honeybee colonies were wiped out over the winter, with deadly infestations of mites and harmful land management practices heaping mounting pressure upon the crucial pollinators and the businesses that keep them.

Preliminary figures commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture show that 28% of bee colonies in the United States were lost over the 2015-16 winter.

“This suggests t is something more going on – bees may be the canary in the coalmine of bigger environmental problems.”

Bees may be the canary in the coal mine of bigger environmental problems.

“One in three bites of food we eat is directly or indirectly pollinated by bees. If we want to produce apples, cucumbers, almonds, blueberries and lots of other types of food, we need a functioning pollination system. Bees, and the beekeeping industry, will suffer dramatically if we don’t have that.”

Environmental groups have called for a range of common pesticides to be phased out to help bee populations recover.

US bees dying