Photo: Toni Burnham, in Washington, D.C.
Elsewhere on this site thedailygreen.com is running Urban Beekeeping Photos. Nearly a hundred beekeepers have submitted dozens of photos of their colonies that live in an urban setting ... that are surviving in town ... showing that these city bees are doing just fine. I'm pretty sure this has never been done before and we hope you enjoy this celebration of bees in the city ... it's a first.
Yet, at the same time, this blog continues to document the march of Colony Collapse Disorder across the land. It's almost, but not quite ... "if it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead". Spectacular and devastating news events are what get noticed. And for some time now that's a lot of what's been here. And that's because that's what's been happening.
Nobody appreciates the irony of this more than I, believe me. At the same time we are celebrating the life, and documenting the death of our bees. It leaves a strange taste.
The celebration idea was the result of an ongoing discussion the Editor and I have been having that finally came to be ... urban beekeeping is showing up all over, and the attention it needs has never been more important. Urban bees have arrived ... and we want to make sure they stay. In fact, there's a whole chapter on just this subject in the revision of The Backyard Beekeeper coming out next year. It's that important, and it's not been explored in this depth anywhere before.
One way to resolve this imbalance is to ignore one or the other. That's not an option for me. I want to be certain that bees in the city get more, and more, and more attention. I want to make sure that they continue to increase and flourish and thrive. Cities need bees and city beekeepers. They have been too long without them.
Illustration: Lela Dowling. Click to enlarge.
But Colony Collapse Disorder? What of that of late? Well, not much, actually. Still some bleeding, but not as much as last year, yet. (See how to diagnose colony collapse disorder from common symptoms.) In mid-September the International Beekeeping Association, Apimondia, held it's biennial meeting in France. Honey bee decline, and hence Honey Bee health was at the top of the list of what's going on in the world of bees.
And guess what? There was a whole lot of ... it's a combination of many things, coming together in a perfect storm, working synergistically and in sublethal doses to cause the genetic malfunctions that have been documented and thus ... killing bees. In other words, recent science has taught us a lot more of what is already known.
More pieces of the puzzle were uncovered and put in place, however ... leaving the complex a bit better understood. These new bits had to do with pesticides in the environment (lots to do with pesticides in the environment) and in the hive, nosema and it's devastating, or not so devastating results, more on viruses, more on mites, more on nutrition. The new news is the progress on the marriage of nature and nurture ... how the environment affects bees' genetics. That, it seems is much of the future of this inquiry.
But the real future of individual beekeepers and the whole industry keeps coming back to taking care of basics. Beekeepers everywhere, especially this time of year when the commercial outfits are staring at the horizon of almond pollination are really taking care of their bees. Sucrose rather than high fructose corn syrup, double, triple and more extra protein in the diet, home yards as far as possible from the killing fields of industrial agriculture, protection from the new nosema in the form of feeding stimulants like Honey B Healthy and the others that encourage bees to eat more, and the antibiotic set aside for this, and of course safe and sane mite control. Nothing new, just doing the right thing at the right time the right way. It's as simple, and as difficult and as expensive as that.
The wrinkle in this is that this year will produce maybe the worst honey crop, ever. Ever. The survey taken by our magazine each year at this time is scary beyond belief. And the crops in Argentina and Canada aren't going to fill the honey barrels any time soon due to drought, crop failures and plain lousy weather this summer and fall. The price of honey will challenge gold by Christmas and beekeepers must decide if they will move bees to almonds, or stay home for honey. The price of honey will solidify as the numbers come in but beekeepers need to decide sooner than the prices arrive. It's going to be a difficult decision. And a difficult winter. And the unknown of more Colony Collapse Disorder only makes it more difficult to decide.
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