The news reported this week (a Columbus TV station) that the winter loss of bees in Ohio this past winter was only 15% compared to a 72% loss last year. And a recent article from New Jersey reported that they are experiencing a 10-15% loss this year compared to 40% the year before. Reports from elsewhere mirror these two reports. These reported losses make things appear completely normal and that last winter was just an anomaly.
But wait… The USDS is reporting that the loss of bees to CDD this year has increased to 37%, up from 30% the previous year. This number comes from a study of commercial beekeepers and the hives they moved to California for pollination. So things are clearly not better for the commercial operator and the bees that pollination our crops. These increasing numbers aren’t reflected in the Ohio or NJ counts because these commercial hives aren’t in Ohio or New Jersey. They may be later in the season for pollinating other crops, but they typically don’t call Ohio or NJ their permanent home. So just because Ohio and NJ don’t have a big loss this year, they will likely still be affected by the loss of bees elsewhere.
Unfortunately no one seems to have any real answers yet, though some possible causes have been ruled out, and there still is lots of speculation on what the cause may be. There is interest in the senate now calling for money for research into this problem. The bill calling for $20 million in funding for FY 2009 has passed the senate but (as of last Friday) is stalled in the house. If this is something you are concerned about, you need to talk to your congressman (or woman) now. (H.R. 1709 ‘Pollinator Protection Act’)