View Full Version : Latest News on Disappearing Colonies

Dan McFeeley
09-07-2007, 05:24 PM

10-02-2007, 10:38 AM
I spoke to my local bulk honey supplier and he said a few things that I would like to get a response on from our resident beekeepers.

"The colony collapse and mite issues really are not that big a deal". Now, this surprised me since everything we hear is that there are whole industries being affected by these two problems. This was the explanation that he was given by a large apiarist:

Every year, at the end of the pollination season, there are far more bee colonies than are needed. It costs the large scale apiarists too much money feeding the bees over the winter, so they let them die off, and then work on rebuilding new colonies in the Spring. The colony collapse disorder, mite infestation, and viral infections just do what the apiarists would selectively do themselves. Also, with the occurance of the mites and nasty viruses, killing infected colonies helps control the spread of these two nasty infestations.

When asked why there seems to be so much concern and panic, he merely shrugged and said that the press got hold of this one and worked the story to be far worse than it seems since potential disaster sells. In fact, the price of honey is pretty much steady right now despite the increase in demand since there is actually a large stockpile of it brought in by the huge amount of travelling apiarists that had a very succesful year.

So, are really blowing this out of proportion? Is there a serious problem here, or are the small hobby apiarists the only ones really at risk of losing everything? From my point of view, I am still very concerned and am eager to see the cure developed that will save all of our bees. In fact, I feel that the large scale transportation of bee colonies accross the country quickens the spread of the types of things we should really be working to control. Unfortunately, what is the alternative?


10-02-2007, 07:07 PM
I would imagine the fear was that the other ways that hives died off were known while CCD was new. That leaves the possibility of it getting worse. I'm no beekeeper but if I normally allow X% of my bee colonies to die off and last winter I find out that X% + Y% have died off I better find out exactly what Y is and that seemed to be where the hysteria is.

10-03-2007, 05:50 AM
To say that there are enough hives is crazy. Just consider these facts, depending upon who you talk to there are somewhere between 2.2 and 2.4 million hives in the United States total, this includes all of the hives owned by hobbyists and farmers that are not in the business of shipping hives around the country. Now realized that because of current laws we can’t ship hives from Canada, and it is almost impossible to ship hives from southern states because of fear of spreading fire ants. According to USDA of the 2.2 million hives they count for agricultural use as many as 600,000 have been affected with CCD

There were approximately 680,000 acres of almonds in California in 2007 and they are planting at the rate of about 30-40 thousand acres a year, about 10% are currently non bearing. This comes to about 615,000 acres that need hives. Crop insurance companies are requiring a minimum of two hives per acre, with many farmers believing it is better to be on the safe side and use 3 hives. Simple math says that this comes to close to 1.3 million hives minimum, USDA says 1.4 million hives were used last year. In addition to the almond crop, avocados, plums, Apples and cherries are all pollinated during the same time frame, I have no idea how many more hives this accounts for, but it is more than just 1 or 2.

In 2004 the cost of a hive for an almond grower was $40-$45 dollars, last year (2007) it was in the $150-$160 range and that was before CCD hit. 2007 was also the first year that the value of the almond crop to the bee keeping industry was more than the wholesale value of all honey production.

One other interesting fact, because of bee shortages, 2005 is when the almond growers first started importing hives in large quantity from Australia to make up for the shortage of local bees.

Local professional beekeepers in California are reporting between a 20%-40% loss of hives this winter. If the finger is really pointed at some virus form Australia for CCD then it wouldn’t surprise me to see California outlaw Australian bees. When you consider that almonds are a 2 billion plus industry in California, you start to understand why everyone is so worried.


10-03-2007, 09:26 AM
Haven't actually talked with a beekeeper about this...

But if it's like everything else the media is blowing it out of proportion.

Similar to the Glassy Winged Sharp Shooter destroying the CA wine industry, which I believe the Media was saying would be destroyed by 2007. Haven't noticed a decline in the wine in my local liquor store, have you?

Yes, it's had an effect, changed the way the grape farmers do some things, spurred some research, and cost a large amount of money....

Which is what I expect to come out of the hive disorder. (Research, change in procedures, and money spent).

Just my 2cents.

10-03-2007, 10:22 AM
So, why would the industrial apiarists kill off their stock during the winter, only to have to import bees from another country to make sure they are up to speed for the next season? Seems a little bit of a waste.

Is there any real control over how the bees are handled for the growers and apiarists? Does any quarenteeing occur for the bees that are shipped in from Australia? Could it be that the collapse of our bee colonies here is a "Mongolian Yellow Fever" event again? Remember, the Africanised Bee issue sprung up in Brazil years ago because nobody considered the implications of introducing a more aggressive bee into the ecosystem.

We have to be careful when saying that it is the media blowing stuff out of proportion. Sometimes, they miss the ball altogether (remember when Aids was a small illness affecting only the gay community in San Francisco). Then again, the GW Bush Vietnam scandal got a long time anchorman fired for blowing the story out of proportion (please, keep the debate about GWB and Rather for another topic. This one is about bees). This is why I am erring on the side of caution by still being concerned despite the information I was given.

Good input Jay. Makes sense with the numbers.