The Dead Dont Stay Dead, It Seems...
Further investigation into what happens to all those empty beehives after all the bees have died from what is believed to be Colony Collapse Disorder has turned up some interesting answers...and some more questions.
First, we quoted Dennis VanEnglesdorp incorrectly in our last entry here. We took the quote from a newspaper article that quoted him saying that those hives should be burned. Well, they were right, and not right. Dennis did advise hobby beekeepers to not use equipment if they had experienced CCD. Thats because generally hobby beekeepers dont have many colonies and replacement costs are minimal, considering the risks involved and the work involved in getting them in shape to use again. But, he added, and wasnt quoted, if you choose to use them, have them irradiated before reintroducing bees into them.
Other researchers too, have suggested irradiation as a preventive measure for equipment after a bout with CCD. Indeed, although early reports indicated that irradiation wasnt effective, long-term studies have now shown that irradiated equipment will have at least a 20% increase in the amount of brood raised in that equipment.
But this is still a soft number, and beekeepers are using other means to clean out the nasties left behind...as it seems there are some when all the bees are dead.
One technique is to "air out" the equipment. That means, essentially, stack it outside so the weather wind, rain, and particularly the sun can get at the comb. Theres a lot to be said of a good ol' dose of ultraviolet light, and after three (or more) months of this the equipment seems to bounce back and be useful. Again, this is more anecdotal than hard fact...but some beekeepers are swearing by it. Using a similar technique, some beekeepers are exposing this sullied equipment to old man winter, thinking that a hard freeze will do in what ever those nasties are. This, too, is anecdotal, but some are convinced it works. For both of these techniques, both unproven, time will tell, but the science behind both seems at least reasonable. Without any good research to support these decisions one way or the other...whos to say?
Alternate sterilization techniques are being looked at for different reasons, however. Just where is the nearest radiation treatment center, do you know? There are several in the country, but only several. Hauling thousands of empty boxes hundreds of miles, paying for the treatment and hauling them back...you gotta put pencil to paper here and figure out treatment costs vs. burning and buying new. And then, radiation isnt a guarantee...not yet anyway. So whats a beekeeper to do?
Other methods being considered are treating with ozone, different kinds of radiation, and simply leaving equipment empty...sans bees, as it were...for "some" length of time. All are reasonable...none are proven. And this certainly begs the question...why doesnt anybody know? Its been two seasons now and thats more than a years worth of waiting for Godot, it seems. Some research is under way...some really good, really needed studies are under way by the USDA looking at what might be the cause of CCD, or what contributes to it, or what may help reduce or eliminate it. And those studies wont be done for several years, because its a five-year study. So, no answers there for awhile. The farm bill...well, who knows where that is, and why its where its at. And all the emergency money the good folks at the National Honey Board, Haagen Dazs Ice Cream, Penn State, The Bee Research Group, USDA, The U.S. Army, EAS, APISm, the many state beekeeping organizations and even individuals is pretty much used up. And the answers are either tied up in publications waiting to publish, or in labs waiting to be discovered.
This week theres a Senate hearing in Washington on getting additional funds to study the bigger problem of Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers by the score will be there voicing their concerns, as will the scientists studying the issue. One can only hope that now, finally, something will happen that can help stop the bleeding.
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