My Open Garage Door Lesson
I would like to relate a lesson learned. I had extracted some supers and had replaced them back on the hive for the girls to clean up. After a couple days, I removed them and placed them into storage; except for one. This one I left on a short stand for some reason I don’t recall or I’m just suppressing that reason to save face. I got busy doing other things, leaving the garage door open. Sometime later I remembered I needed to close the garage door and I have been having some issues with robbing. Then the ‘Maybe beekeeping isn’t such a good idea at home moment.’ Bees were so thick in the garage they were breaking the safety light beam on the garage door preventing it from closing. Let me tell you, that’s a lot of bees. The solution was simple enough, get the door closed, turn off the lights, and leave a side door cracked so light would show though. Bees will leave a darken area and go to the light, so the garage cleared out within and half hour or so. I learned that from the time I left my truck door open and the dome light on while dealing with a swarm at night, but that is another lesson learned.
An Eye for Beekeeping
This photograph [at right] was taken on August 1st while we were inspecting our top bar hive. Half of the colony swarmed 5 weeks prior, and we were waiting for them to requeen. That’s why we were in there. We wanted to make sure a new queen had emerged and to see what she’d been up to. We were met with all kinds of good news, all of which is demonstrated by this brood comb: eggs, larvae, capped brood, and pollen and honey stores. In jest, I peered at my wife through a small tunnel in the comb. She happened to have a camera in her hand at the time, and snapped this shot. The eye doesn’t immediately stand out, but once you see it, it’s quite striking.
Are We Crying Wolf?
Reading last month’s article by Keith Delaplane was a bit discouraging. Normally I very much enjoy his writing, but the content of the Aug. article was disturbing. In it he explains why the Group refused to concede two points. One that the bee decline was not new, and two, that pesticide poisoning was unintentional. He did a great job of outlining the facts, fair detail about the decline of managed colonies being macro economics, and an excellent job on pointing out Varroa problems. But then goes on to say that the Georgia PPP (pollinator protection plan) decided that the new losses were different. At the end he points out that there is a conflict of science and opinion. The disturbing point is that the Georgia PPP decided to come down on the side of opinion!
Any researcher can see several things are going on: First, managed hives and honey production are UP here in the last few years. The chart on page 912 shows it. As was pointed out, the real decline in hives were social economics, with Varroa compounding. Beekeeping is a ton of work! We move heavy boxes around again and again for honey or pollination, with little remuneration. In 1995 the price was .57 a lb! It wasn’t even until 2002 that it broke the $1.00 a lb barrier. Add the cost of Varroa management and losses and its not a business for the money. Any researcher knows this. That’s the steady driver of declines for the last 60 years, as well as the driver of the increase! Honey at $2.00 is profitable again. Hence the increase. WE also make note of the “huge losses” and “summer losses” being unprecedented and unsustainable. This is not a true statement in any form.
What is new is groups like Bee informed, and the others researching and gathering data from new sources and unprecedented levels. Via the press and the internet, we suddenly have data that didn’t exist before. While its true, writings of the early 1900 don’t show huge summer losses, such writings were by the real serious beekeepers. If you survey the more experienced beekeepers now, you will find things are about the same (exceptions for Varroa noted). What’s happening is we are gathering data from a lot of new places and sources without a filter on experience and not much of one for locations. I expected better understanding of the data from the researchers. High winter losses and even summer losses are not new in any form. Add to that pesticide poisoning is lower than ever. What’s happening is a huge spike in the “reporting process” any real beekeeper knows this. I grew up in Iowa in the 70’s we lost hives to pesticides constantly. No one came around and kept track. It was part of the game. I have a lot more hives now, and don’t worry about pesticides nearly as much as I used to, but do get regular questionnaires asking me about it. I don’t ever recall a BIP form or even a USDA form from the 1980’s.
What I found discouraging with the article is the Georgia PPP unwillingness to acknowledge the facts. It seems from this point of view the entire goal is to continue the funding train and the battle between modern AG and beekeepers (it was not mentioned who the other stakeholder was but seems pretty obvious). If science admits that this is not new, and that modern AG is actually helping pollinators, funding slows down. It seems that CCD has run its course, education on mites and managing them is getting better and better, and new AG products are reducing pesticide exposures, but if we admit that then funding dries up. It sure seemed to me from the article, the goal is to keep that battle going and see if we can get funding from Washington. I find that a very disappointing position coming from one of the states that produces more bees and honey than most others. Georgia produces more than ½ the package bees in the US, and always ranks very high in honey production, amidst a large amount of swamps, agriculture and urban sprawl. Georgia should be touting the cooperative venture and success instead of pandering to Washington politics.
While I do understand that this perspective is not “popular” in today’s beekeeping, reality and facts are stubborn. If we continue to cry wolf and beg for funding, when we need it, it won’t be there.
How Markets Benefit Honeybees and Mankind
After more than a decade of panicked reports about honeybees disappearing and potentially going extinct because of a phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder,” The Washington Post reported last week that the number of hives in the United States has reached a 20 year high. At the same time, I was making presentation at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, explaining that globally, there are more beehives today than there were in 1961, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
That is not to say that beekeepers haven’t had some challenges related to diseases and other factors that affect hive health. While such issues may raise the cost of keeping hives, they have not led to any serious long-term decline that warrants panic about the survival of this species.
Honeybees will not go extinct any time soon for the …