Monday, April 21, 2014
The pear tree is in full bloom. The sun is out and the temperature is near sixty degrees. This tree ought to be crawling with bees, but I haven't seen a single one. I haven't spotted one - not one! - honeybee yet this year. I've seen yellow jackets, and one lonely bumblebee, but not a single honeybee.
No bees on the dandelions.
No bees in the rhododendrons. Usually, these flowers are favorites of bumblebees, with a fair number of honeybees as well. Nothing so far. Nothing.
It's scary. Colony Collapse Syndrome has been around since at least 2005, and despite intense research, there is of yet no consensus on a cause. Most likely, it is due to a combination of factors including pesticides (especially nicotinoids, which has been banned in Europe for this reason), parasites, viruses, and possibly GMO pollen.
This year, we also had an unusually harsh winter and a very late, cold spring. It's possible that many local hives simply didn't make it through. My friends who keep bees say their hives are active, so I know that most bees ought to have "woken up" by now. I wonder what the orchard fruit crop will be like this year with no pollinators out during maximum bloom time. I wonder about the garden.
We used to keep bees, but when they died in a winter storm (Bad Bee News; Baby Broilers) we didn't replace them. The equipment and medicine is expensive, there is a fair amount of regular maintenance and work to be done which nobody was really excited about, and as it turns out I have a pretty intense allergy to stings. One sting will make an entire limb swell up and itch horrifically for three or four days.
We may try again with bees, someday. We may have to. There may come a day when if we don't keep bees we just don't get fruit and vegetables. I hope not. I hate to think about a world without feral bees, but it may be just around the corner. Already, in case you didn't know, the nation's berry, orchard fruit, and nut crops, as well as many other crops (full list here) are dependent on managed commercial hives, trucked all over the country by a shrinking number of professional beekeepers.
Without those beekeepers - who are routinely sustaining losses of half their hives every year, year after year - we will be a poorer and hungrier nation.