Still, the fact that the bees on the island managed to spend weeks in the hive to isolate themselves from such oppressive conditions was surprising — and even inspiring, said Dr. Steinhauer.
“It’s a very strong story,” she says. “It tells a lot about the resilience of honeybees.”
For more than a decade, beekeepers and researchers have been sounding the alarm about bees — which play a vital role in agriculture — which die at high rates, even in the summer when bees produce food and care for their young.
Honeybees are not threatened, and beekeepers can replace lost colonies year round, said Dr. Steinhauer, who is also scientific coordinator for the Bee Informed Partnership, a consortium of universities and research labs.
But the high death rate is worrying and especially stressful for beekeepers, who have to spend a lot of time and money replacing dying colonies.
In the United States, the death rate was particularly high, although the total number of honeybee colonies has remained fairly stable over the past 20 years, according to the Bee Informed Partnership.
Still, honeybees remain flexible and resourceful, said Keith S. Delaplane, the director of the Honey Bee Program at the University of Georgia and a professor of entomology.
Bees will build hives in tree hollows or abandoned tires, he said.
Stories abound of honeybees surviving wildfires after the worker bees, fanning their wings, managed to lower the hive temperatures. When a fire destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral, a beekeeper who had several hives on the roof was delighted to find that the bees had survived by eating honey.