Bees Still In Peril

Beekeepers lost over 42% of their colonies in the 12 months that began in April, 2014. This came after a year when total winter losses were 23%, less than the 30% average losses per year since 2005.

The figures come from the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaborative effort between university research laboratories, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Partnership is dedicated to studying bee health on a “large scale” rather than in individual lab experiments. And that means data collection.

The Partnership emphasized that the results of their latest study were preliminary and may change as more data comes in.

The dying bees are a disappointment after a year that suggested to some the worst of the colony loss epidemic may had passed. Those pesticide companies that blamed colony collapse disorder on the varroa mite parasite saw proof they were right in the 2013 results.

Research consensus is that a combination of factors, including the mites, loss of forage habitat, and pesticides — specifically neonicotinoid pesticides — are at play in bee deaths. Pesticide manufacturers have touted the varroa mite as the main culprit. But research tends to show it’s the pesticides.

In 2013, the European Commission, citing their threat to honeybee populations, banned three neonicotinoid pesticides from use in the European Union.

The Bee Partnership report contains one unusual result: the high percentage of bees dying over the summer. Summer losses totaled more than 27%, up from 19.8% the year before. It was the first time ever that summer losses exceeded winter losses.

The Partnership report offers a revealing chart (scroll down) of winter, summer, total, and “acceptable” losses dating back to 2006.

Pesticide industry comment, as reported by The Washington Post,  was dismissive of the report:

Dick Rogers, chief beekeeper for pesticide-maker Bayer, said the loss figure is “not unusual at all” and said the survey shows an end result of more colonies now than before: 2.74 million hives in 2015, up from 2.64 million in 2014.

Of course, beekeepers are always raising more bees come spring, dividing the surviving hives and forcing the development of new colonies. But ask any beekeeper if 40% colony loss (or 30% for that matter) is acceptable and see what they say. The Bayer spokesperson’s “not unusual at all” is uninformed and insulting.

Yes, landscape forage for all pollinators needs to be encouraged, especially in the face of continuing rural development. And it would be a breakthrough if there were a way to effectively control varroa mites that didn’t require chemicals with their own set of evils.

But to look for blame elsewhere and suggest — “no problem here” — we move on from consideration of a neonicotinoid ban, well, that almost seems criminal, especially in light of the dangers neonicotinoids may pose to human health.

Source of Article: Bees Still In Peril

To Bee or Not to Bee?

I’ve been keeping bees in my backyard since 1983, and I have a confession to make — I really love my bees. That may sound weird to you if you aren’t a beekeeper (yet!), but virtually everyone who keeps bees will tell you the same thing and speak with deep warmth about “their girls.” They impatiently await their next opportunity to visit their hives. They experience a true emotional loss when their bees don’t make it through a bad winter. Beekeepers, without a doubt, develop a special bond with their bees.

Since becoming a backyard beekeeper, I’ve grown to deeply admire the remark-able qualities of these endearing creatures. As a gardener, I’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic contribution they provide to flowering plants of all kinds. With honey bees in my garden, its bounty has increased by leaps and bounds. And then there’s that wonderful bonus that they generously give me: a yearly harvest of sweet liquid gold.

Once you get to know more about bees’ value and remarkable social skills, you’ll fall in love with them too. They’re simply wonderful little creatures. Interacting with them is an honor and a privilege. People who love nature in its purest form will love bees and beekeeping. That being said, in this article, I help you better understand the remarkable and bountiful little honey bee by looking at its history and the value that it brings to our lives. I also discuss the benefits of beekeeping and why you should con-sider it as a hobby — or even a small business venture. This article gives you an idea of what equipment you’ll need to get started, the time you should expect to spend maintaining a healthy hive, and how deep your pockets need to be. It also discusses the optimal environmental conditions for raising bees and ends with a checklist that you can fill out to see if beekeeping is for you.

Discovering the Benefits of Beekeeping

Why has mankind been so interested in beekeeping over the centuries? I’m sure that the first motivator was honey. After all, for many years and long before cane sugar, honey was the primary sweetener in use. I’m also sure that honey remains the principal draw for many backyard beekeepers.

But the sweet reward is by no means the only reason folks are attracted to beekeeping. For a long time, agriculture has recognized the value of pollina-tion by bees. Without the bees’ help, many commercial crops would suffer serious consequences. More on that later. Even backyard beekeepers wit-ness dramatic improvements in their gardens’ yields: more and larger fruits, flowers, and vegetables. A hive or two in the garden makes a big difference in your success as a gardener. The rewards of beekeeping extend beyond honey and pollination. Bees pro-duce other products that can be harvested and put to good use, including beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. Even the pollen they bring back to the hive can be harvested (it’s rich in protein and makes a healthy food supplement in our own diets).