The Almond show is over and the bees are heading away from the balmy California orchards toward more balmy California, Oregon and Washington orchards. But now the rest of the us are finally seeing the green, green grass of spring, and wondering what our bees have done this winter, and will do now that its spring.
This seems to be the winter that never ends in the northern parts of the country. But then, we say that every year about this time. It aint April thats the cruelest month ... its March. A friend from tropical Australia moved to Michigan last year. This year, he says, hes running out of adjectives to put in front of his new home ... I am too.
Last year at this time was when the second round of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) seemed to strike. Or maybe not. Lots of colonies perished last year right about Easter time due to what came to be known as the Easter Freeze. A very atypical (well, it seemed atypical anyway) late frost hit right about now across much of the northern U.S. east of the Mississippi river all the way to Maine, and all down the east coat to northern Florida. It killed everything in bloom, and it killed all the buds that hadnt bloomed yet, so there was nothing left of the spring blossoms. Nothing.
This was right at the time of year when bees were going like gangbusters to get their population up so they can take advantage of the later blooms in the summer. When the freeze hit it took all the food with it. End of build up. End of growth spurt. In fact, the end of a lot of colonies that starved to death when they should have been in the midst of plenty.
As if that wasnt bad enough, right about the time that last freeze hit, it quit raining. Almost everywhere, but especially down the east coast. So first there wasnt food because of the freeze, then there wasnt food because of the drought. Not only was there hardly any food, the remaining food was off spec..it simply wasnt up to par. Stressed plants produce reduced amounts of stressed pollen, little or no nectar, and water is hard to find, too. It was tough making a living out there last year.
Whats a bee gonna do?
As a result of all this a lot of colonies died unexpectedly. And more so, a lot of colonies suffered significantly but didnt quite die ... they just never took off. They lingered. Sound familiar? Sound like something else?
Well, thats what we are waiting for now. That Gotcha late freeze. That dry-as-bones drought again. Its not CCD though, even though the colonies dwindle and slow and disappear. Its just plain hard luck that got them last year. So this year, were ready. You only have to fool (most of) us once before most of us get our act together and figure it out. Were feeding early ... feeding honey, not high-fructose corn syrup. Were feeding protein early too, but its the high tech, nutritious stuff, with a little pollen mixed in, so the bees really like it, and really eat it, and really dont go off starving.
Last year was a hard year even for those who didnt have CCD. This year wont be quite so hard, and maybe even better since were ready, we hope, for any surprise.
No late freeze is going to get us this year. And that drought ... well, it can kiss my grits this time. Of course early reports are that CCD is increasing a little this year and thats not good news. The Apiary Inspectors of America ... the beekeeping regulators in every state, are going to take another survey this spring on colony losses. Last year their numbers were not encouraging, but they were fairly accurate. This year ... well, this year well see. Time will tell. As will empty colonies.
And where is that Federal money? And that USDA money? That ice cream company coughed up a bunch thatll help. Where are the rest of the food producers who need bees to keep going, hmmm? Tell Del Monte to make pickles without bees. And every flower seed company would have to put even fewer seeds in one of the packets without our fuzzy friends....havent heard from them, either. Or the vegetable seed folks...Or the dairy, chicken, beef, pork, apple or plum folks either. If you know one of these...maybe give em an elbow in the ribs. Ask what theyd do without bees...maybe next year.
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