How are the bees? People who know I am a beekeeper often ask me that question. I’d like to tell them that the bees are doing great, pollinating flowers, making honey and helping feed the world, but that isn’t true anymore. Bees are doing terribly, or more accurately, they are dying.

From summer of 2017 to spring of 2018, 80-90 percent of the honey bees in Central Maryland died. Some died suddenly, and some died slowly, but nearly all of them died. Most small-scale beekeepers with one to 10 colonies lost them all. I visited one beekeeper in February of last year, and out of 20 colonies, only one was still alive. Another very skilled beekeeper, with a doctorate in entomology and toxicology, lost 26 out of 30 colonies. My own apiary had three survivors out of 26, and I am a master beekeeper. Another friend, a very experienced beekeeper, lost 40 out of 40 — total devastation.

We love our bees, and these deaths are heart-breaking, as well as very costly. We can buy new bees if they are available, but it takes a year before they produce a honey crop. We won’t know until April how the bees are doing this year.

Knowledgeable, responsible beekeepers cannot keep their bees alive. Why?

There are two syndromes: acute and chronic. If a colony suddenly drops dead, it’s acute. A healthy, thriving family of 50,000 honey bees just dies, with piles of dead bees everywhere, after insecticide is applied to flowers nearby.

The chronic condition is harder to explain, as it happens over a period of months. The colony may seem fine at first but gradually declines, seeming to lose the will to live. Bees have many jobs that must be done daily. The queen lays eggs, 1,500 or more every day. Worker bees raise babies, build honeycomb, feed the queen, clean house, pollinate flowers, make honey and guard against invaders. In recent years, they just forget how to do those things, and the colony slowly dwindles and eventually dies. What could possibly cause this to happen?

Read full article: The bees are dying – Baltimore Sun

Published On: February 7th, 2019