(By Susan Salisbury – Palm Beach Post)
Once again, the American honeybee had a tough winter, but more and more people are pitching in to help save the troubled bees by becoming backyard beekeepers.
Commercial beekeepers reported losses of 30 percent of their colonies, similar to results reported during the past five years, according to survey results released Monday. The survey conducted by the Apiary Inspectors of America and the U.S. Department of Agriculture covered October through April.
Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which an entire colony of bees abruptly disappears from its hives, appears to still be occurring. It was first reported by Florida beekeeper Dave Hackenberg in 2006, and since then abandoned hives have been reported worldwide.
About one-third of commercial beekeepers who participated in the most recent survey said they lost at least some of their colonies without finding dead bees. Exactly why the bees are disappearing from their hives is not known, although scientists suspect it’s due to a combination of factors such as stress, poor diet, diseases and pests.
Jerry Hayes, assistant bureau chief of apiary inspection for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Gainesville, said there’s an upside.
“Because of CCD, our numbers of residential backyard beekeepers has grown phenomenally, from 700 or 800 to around 2,000 registered backyard beekeepers. They have heard about honeybees. They want to save the world. It is amazing,” Hayes said.
Boynton Beach resident Judy Leger, a retired Siemens project manager, took up the hobby four years ago and has 18 hives on her half-acre property. She enjoys the many flavors and colors of honey they produce.
Leger’s interest was sparked after honeybees set up housekeeping inside her kitchen’s soffit, and she called the Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association to remove them. Aware of the bee’s struggles, she didn’t want them destroyed.
“People are more sensitive to the fact that the honeybees are the good bees and because they are suffering from CCD, people want to save them,” she said.
The Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association, founded in 1974, has grown from fewer than 20 members to more than 130 in the last few years.
Brendhan Horne, a suburban West Palm Beach hobbyist beekeeper who also operates a bee removal business, Bee Barf, has witnessed and helped spur the hobby’s growth in the seven years he has been involved. The honeybee losses have thrust the insects into the limelight.
“People want to try to preserve something they recognize as important, because of bees pollinating the food supply,” said Horne, a past president of the beekeepers association. “With the green movement, here is something they can do. You don’t have to have 2,000 hives; you can have one or two.”
Horne said many homeowner associations prohibit beekeeping, but some other areas allow it.
Through the beekeepers association, Horne organized the third annual Southeast Organic Beekeepers Conference in West Palm Beach in February.
Horne and other organic beekeepers say they have not seen any evidence of CCD, but unlike commercial bees, the backyard bees aren’t hauled around the country to pollinate various crops.
Hayes said if it wasn’t for the fact that commercial beekeepers split their hives’ populations so the bees can establish a new hive, there would be no bees left. The process is expensive, and replacing 30 percent of the nation’s colonies is not considered sustainable over the long term.
Ellen Page talks “Vanishing of the Bees” on Bill Maher.
White House Bees
Soooo….. he’s not an organic beekeeper – but he does go through some useful explanations of basic beekeeping tools. Just disregard the part about plastic vs. wax…. bees can make their own foundations!
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