Any other beekeeper out there sick and tired about hearing this ‘mysterious’ bee disease, CCD (Colony colapse disorder?). The coverage has been overwhelming from national to local TV coverage (on every network including PBS), radio and newspapers down the small local papers. And it seems to be increasing with attention from even the US congress. The continuous stream of stories all saying the same thing with little or no new information is becoming unbearable. Then there are the questions for everyone I meet and phone calls from reporters asking about the bees.
I don’t doubt CCD exists, someting with the same symptoms has been described as early as 1915 and in many different countries. There are many beekeepers in the US that lost quite a few hives with symptoms matching CCD exactly. Some of them have been virtually wiped out by it, and I understnd their loss. However, not all the bee losses this year were due to CCD. Many were due to well known and explained reasons such as starvation, mites and other diseases. It’s almost too easy just to blame the unknown than to really take a look at what is really happening in some of these hives.
CCD has been reported in Ohio, but from talking to many beekeepers thoughout the state, the state inspectors and my own observations, the majority of the 72% average loss in ohio was not due to CCD. Rather it was ultimately due to weather. The 2006 summer was poor for honey production and the following fall was no better. This resulted in many hives that either did not have enough honey to survive the winter, or that simply did not have a strong population of young bees, or both. This ment that hives either starved, or their population dwindled thought the winter until they were too small to sustain themselves though the bitter cold this past February.
Looking back, the loss of bees this winter in Ohio shouldn’t have been a surprise. I honestly expected a bad winter, with losses several times the normal level, but even that was underestimating the loss I did have. Starting around June of 2006, hives did not build up as they normally would. This really continued into fall and should have been a sign to all of us that we needed to do something. Sadly most of us (including myself) didn’t do enough. We treated for mite and feed sugar syrup so they would have enough for winter, but failed to reconize the lack of young bees in the hive. I know hindesight is 20/20, but should I ever see these signs again I will be feeding pollen and pollen substitute to increase brood production in the fall. Interestingly I just spoke to a beekeeper who use to know Don Cox, a longtime beekeeper whom everyone seems to know. Don recommend feeding pollen in the fall because it boosted the strength of the hive going into winter. That piece of advise may have saved many hives this past winter. The one beekeeper I know of who did this lost 0% of his hives. (Note: Doc Cox was instrumental in founding the Northwest Ohio Beekeepers Association and started the honey booth at the Allen County Fair. He passed away just a few years ago and will be missed by those who know him.)
On the plus side, honey bees are finally getting a lot of attention. I’m not sure it’s putting beekeeping in the best light with all the ‘doom and gloom’ talk, but at least it’s getting attention. And more important it looks like it may be translating into dollars for research in beekeeping, something that is badly needed. So I do welcome the attention.