By Julie Grant for The Environment Report
Michigan beekeepers are continuing to lose huge numbers of bees. They join beekeepers from around the country – and the world – who have been dealing with what’s called Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s been around for five years now. Julie Grant visited with some beekeepers, and reports that scientists and the government don’t agree on what should be done to help them. Here's her story:
Ted Elk is checking out some of his hives. They’re on the backside of a corn field, tucked away in the brush. The colorful boxes are stacked on top of each other.
Some hives are buzzing with activity. He pulls out a comb and scrapes the side:
“And that is all goldenrod honey. See how yellow that is?”
I want to eat it. It’s almost irresistible. But not all the hives look this good.
“Here’s one that’s not gonna make it through winter. It’s light, there’s no bees, there’s no weight to it.”
There’s honey on the comb. But almost no bees.
Elk suspects this hive has colony collapse disorder. There aren’t dead bees around. They’re just gone.
Elk has seen this before. Last winter, he lost 250 hives – and thousands of dollars. When Elk first started keeping bees, he might lose five or six percent in the winter. But nationwide, a 30 percent winter bee loss is average nowadays.
Researchers still aren’t sure exactly what’s causing Colony Collapse Disorder. But they do know there’s a lot of stress on bees. Beekeepers take their hives all over the country – to Florida to pollinate oranges, to California for almonds, to New York for apples, and elsewhere. The beekeepers take the bees honey, and often feed them cheap high fructose corn syrup, or nothing at all. Plus, they can have mites and bacteria. And there are 28 viruses that can affect bees.