Where for art thou, honeybee?
Jamie and Melanie Morehead inspect there bee colonies
oor bees. In a world of takers, these insects truly are givers. Unfortunately, they are disappearing, and the reason is largely a mystery. The phenomenon is called colony collapse disorder. Some researchers say not to panic; this is nature’s way of weeding out and starting over, as disappearances have happened in the past. Others warn that humans better figure it out, and quick, or else we will run out of fruits and vegetables.
The National Resources Defense Council suggests imagining a diet without avocados, cherries, blueberries, onions, broccoli, almonds and other crops because this could be our future. Because bees pollinate much of the food we eat, their disappearance is not comforting. Bees take the pollen from one flower and transfer it to another. Although many insects and bats are responsible for this, the absence of the honeybee is most startling.
Viruses, mites, parasites, pesticides and climate changes have been attributed as the cause of CCD. Some scientists speculate that bees fly off and forget how to return because they are ill or not functioning properly. Others think it’s a heaping combination of all these things. Nothing is certain.
Brian Neuman, apiary inspector, coordinator for the Queen Bee Project and founder of Dew-Bee Honey Farm has been stung more times then he can count, and yet he holds no ill will toward the honeybee. In fact, he’s worried about their unexplainable disappearance.
While the cause of CCD is undetermined, hives are dwindling until there are no bees remaining to do the necessary work. This doesn’t just affect beekeepers, though. It affects everyone. “If you like to eat, you need honeybees,” Neuman says.
He warns that the problem is cyclical. It wouldn’t just be fruits and vegetables we’d have to learn to live without if the problem goes uncorrected. It would even affect beef because bees pollinate the hay cows eat.
Neuman considers himself a hobbyist because he has about 60 hives, or about six million bees in total. Although his hives are “weaker” than they should be, and he has noted uncharacteristic behavior, Neuman hasn’t experienced any losses. There’s no way to know for sure if his colony is affected by CCD because there’s no way to test for CCD. To do that, scientists would have to understand what is causing the disappearance of the precious pollinator.
According to Neuman, it’s the commercial beekeepers who are having the worst problems with CCD. Most research points to insecticides. This could be the saving grace of Neuman’s small number of hives. On average, Neuman’s bees fly a 2-mile radius from their hives, and he doesn’t transport them. Often, a commercial company will move bees from state to state and in doing so, the bees are exposed to a different pesticide in each state.
This isn’t the first time research has been done on disappearing bees. Previous names for this type of collapse were: Fall Dwindling, Spring Dwindling, Autumn Decline or Disappearing Disease. CCD was first reported in 2006, by a beekeeper in Pennsylvania who lost about 1,900 bee colonies, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Neuman touts the upside of CCD as more interest in bees and beekeeping. “More bees mean more pollination and more local benefits,” Neuman says. “If you have bees anywhere in your area, your garden will flourish.”
Visit www.dewbeehoney.com to order all-natural honey products from Neuman’s company.
For simple tips on how home gardeners can help bring back the bees, visit