Over last winter all four of my beehives died. Liz who is my beekeeping teacher and helper lost almost 3/4 of all her hives. We weren’t sure what happened. I knew in late fall right before winter that the hives were gone. There was no activity and a quick peek inside showed empty hives. When we opened up the hives this spring, there were still honey and dead bees stuck with their heads in the comb.
We aren’t alone in the mysterious death of our bees. Hives that started out so strong last spring were dead before the first snowflake fell.
American beekeepers have been struggling with the mysterious colony collapse disorder over the last decade, but last year was particularly bad.
The New York Times wrote an article about it in March and reported that commercial beekeepers reported 40-50% of their hives were wiped out. Scientists are studying the disorder since 2005 and can’t seem to come up with a conclusive explanation.
However, the Times article stated some interesting facts that beekeepers and researchers have been saying for a few years now, that a new class of pesticides knows as neonicotinoids that are incorporated into the plants as seeds may be playing an important factor in last years mass colony collapse.
What are Neonicotinoids? Neonicotinoids or Neonic as farmers call them are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine.
They are systemic pesticides, often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it.
Here is an example on what may be happening, the pesticide Neonic is incorporated into a Sunflower seed and the seed grows and flower sprouts and the bees come to the flower to collect pollen and nectar that they then take back to the hive to feed themselves, and their larvae. It is a concentrated day in day out shot of pesticide for the bees. It would be like you digesting a bit of poison everyday. Your nervous system would begin to shut down and paralysis would happen and then death. Which is what is seems to be happening to the bees.
The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths.
Two quotes from commercial beekeepers in the New York Times article, mirror what Liz and I have seen here in Cincinnati.
“They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”
Bret Adee, who is an owner, with his father and brother, of Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota, the nation’s largest beekeeper, described mounting losses.
“We lost 42 percent over the winter. But by the time we came around to pollinate almonds, it was a 55 percent loss,” he said in an interview here this week.
“They looked beautiful in October,” Mr. Adee said, “and in December, they started falling apart, when it got cold.”
While the pesticide Neonic is not the only culprit to the decline of the bee population, beekeepers still believe there are other culprits such as other pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests.
Whatever the culprit may be we need to take the loss of our bees seriously. The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions, depends on pollination by honeybees. Here is a complete list of foods that are pollinated by bees. Fewer bees mean smaller harvests and higher food prices. We need our precious bees to eat many of the foods we love.
What can you do? DON’T SPRAY PESTICIDES OR HERBICIDES! I know this may mean more work out in the garden, but I truly believe spending time in the garden even if it is pulling weeds or picking slugs off your plants is good for the soul. Plant “bee friendly” plants in your garden. You can find a good list of plants that might work for you in your garden at the daily green.
5 comments on “The Bees are Dying”
Looked at trees and shrubs at Home Depot yesterday. I wanted to purchase several to plant on my property for my honey bees. After reading the little cards with the information on them stating these plants were treated with insecticide. I walked away, leaving my buggy behind, and left!!! Where can I find organically raised trees and shrubs that are not dangerous for my bees?
Rhonda, There are several nurseries online where you can order organically raised trees and plants. I have two nurseries local where I live that offer organically raised perennials. You might want to ask your local beekeeper organization who they recommend.
Amy, Great article! Love the letter from Ron in Sunny Florida…Great points!
Amy, this is a fabulous article. I’m saddened for the bee population and for those who raise and care for them. Not only does this issue implicate a ripple effect across the food chain, but to the human population and the planet. I’m thinking modern ag practices are the direct correlation to these problems and I can’t help but think signs are evident in humans with the increase in disease and related health deterioration. As a layman, I’m just not sure, but I hope you and your colleagues will continue to publish information like this. May it be well disseminated!
Thank you for taking the time to write on such a very important subject. I want to thank you for doing your research as well as sharing your own personal knowledge.
As I have mentioned in a past post, here in Sarasota Florida, it is a mecca for condos, elite gated communities, golf courses and homaginized nature. Its sad the ignorant attittude most people have about birds, bees, butterflies, bats etc. Wanting everything over manicured and sprayed for insects. And people wonder why they have allegies and illness…We are poisoning ALL of life. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! If the polinators are dieing from plants and trees being genetically modified, or constantly sprayed, it too has just as serious effect on us as well. If the polinaters die off, life as we know it will be gravely effected. We should not have to wait 100 years to finally come to our senses…by then it is too late. It’s common sense!
What’s good – on a local level – is that the Sarasota County (as well as several other counties along the Gulf Coast) and the University of Florida, have made a point to try and educate the general population on Better Managment Practices for sustainable landscapes and gardens, by offering free weekly and monthly class. Classes range from Right Plant Right Place, to The Bennefits of collecting Rain Water, to Proper Application of Fertilizer, to How to install a Bioswale Garden, and more. Also the county offers a free 50 page book that lists a large variety of Florida Native and Florida Friendly shrubs, wild flowers and trees (those plants that thrive well without supplemental water and/or agressive fertilizers, and posinous chemicals, and attract wildlife such as birds, bees, butterflies, etc.). I myself have taken these courses, and use them in my garden as well as in my line of work Florida Friendly Landscapeing; though having grown up in Florida (I know it inside and out), it’s a No Brainer for me as to what grows naturally and belongs…Just take a ride out into the interiour of Florida – away from all the condos, Wal Marts, Malls, Neon signs, and championship golf courses, and you can discover what I call “True Florida” in all it wonderous glory. The problem is all the pesky snow birds from – sorry to say, the Mid West – don’t venture more than 5 miles from the coast. Sure some will take their grandchildren to Myakka State Park and go for a ride on the worlds largest Air Boat, but thats the extent of their connection with nature…Then it’s back to the mall…Ain’t nothen like getting away from it all! (sarcasim implied)
In my opinion when it comes to understanding the delicate balance of nature, humans don’t see themselves as a part of it…A link in the chain. Most of society is like Mit Romney when it comes to knowing where our food comes from…”Out of touch”!!!and no concern for what people like you or I are talking about!
The hope that I have is that the younger generation, the ones born into the “Information Era” will be more enviromentally connected, learn from our mistakes, and be more inclined to learn about the Earth (our Home) and practice sustainable living applications…i.e. Organic Gardening, Green energy, reusable products, better Land & Water Managment, Local Farming, Hemp Farming, No GMO products, etc.
We must change our way of thinking; Mother nature tells us everything. We are not the geniuses…We are merely technicians…Listen to mother nature, work in harmony with her and good things will come.