A question that we are often asked, is are we having a problem with Colony Collapse Disorder?
The simple answer is no, CCD doesn’t usually affect hobbyist beekeepers. Nevertheless, there have been record losses of beehives in this area over the past few years. A couple of different organizations are working to tease out the causes, but with 30% losses each winter, we aren’t far from having no bees.
What is causing this sort of loss? There are many reasons that all add up to some serious worries.
1. Weak bees. Bees are assaulted by various pesticides as they go from flower to flower. In addition, the variety of flowers bees visit is diminishing.
If you use any kind of pesticide (for grubs in your lawn or pests in your garden) think twice. Is there an alternative that is gentler or can I even live without the pesticide. While these many not directly kill the bees, they can diminish their ability to fight diseases.
If you only at one kind of food, even if it is healthy, the lack of variety will weaken you.
2. Poor queens. The genetic diversity of bees is diminishing. The queen breeders have smaller and smaller stock each year.
3. Diseases and pests. With the globalization of beekeeping comes a globe-ful of pests that attack bees. Just in the last year I have seen a rise in the number small hive beetles in our hives.
4. Poor management. Beekeeping is an intense hobby that requires continuing education. No beekeeper wants to admit that they made bad decisions but it does happen.
So what can we do?
1. Support local bees. Buy local honey, reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard, and plant native plants.
2. Think local bees. Advocate with your neighbors and town government to do the same – support local beekeepers and reduce pesticide use.
3. Support small farmers. Most small farmers plant a greater variety of produce than large scale farms. The greater the diversity of forage, the stronger the bee.
4. Use your charitable dollars. Support organizations like Heifer International and buy bees or Mass Audubon.