I have an acquaintance who is doing some research work on bees. Here's an early, quite disturbing, report from that quarter:
Subject: “They are going to find a new name for this after this year,” said Denise Qualls of The Pollination Connection, “it’s more than Colony Collapse.”
Bee-Suited Bureaucrats descend on California’s Central Valley
Described by Joe Traynor of Bakersfield based Scientific Ag Company, as a perfect storm – at least 800,000 bee colonies (40%) did not make it to the almond orchards for pollination this February.
Conditions for this perfect storm began in the drought-ridden plains of North and South Dakota last summer. Many commercial beekeepers retire their hives there for summer and fall for honey production after spring migratory pollination in California, Washington and Oregon. Plains once filled with sufficient pasture lands filled with a variety of blooming wild flowers including clover and alfalfa for forage, are now both drought-ridden and overcome with mono-crop production of soy and sunflowers. The summer forage for over 1 million bee colonies were so depleted the bees had nothing to sustain them with for winter.
Although supplemental food of sucrose, corn syrup and pollen cakes were provided, it was not enough for strong colonies come February – show time in the almond orchards. The cost of supplemental feeding, considered by almond growers to be the responsibility of beekeepers, has put many smaller beekeepers out of business.
Many beekeepers backed out of this year’s February almond pollination all together. Others arrived with weak hives to the next perfect storm condition -- cold damp orchards with no bloom. This years bloom is in fact one of the latest recorded. With no pollen to collect for another 4 weeks in the orchards, beekeepers were trying to keep up with more supplemental feeding but hives already placed in orchards are showing a staggering amount of failure.
The dollar loss to the biggest commercial beekeepers is adding up to over $200 million dollars and the almond growers will not know their losses until after fruit has set in another 6 weeks. The crisis has brought out the EPA, the USDA, local farm bureaus and all the biggest stakeholders. Orchards are uncharacteristically filled with bee-suited bureaucrats with note pads as fingers point in all directions.
Brett Adee, said to be the world’s largest commercial beekeeper, is blaming pesticides, not in California’s central valley but back home in the Dakotas.
The USDA is firmly behind the scourge of an out of control mite – Verroa destructor. USDA approved miticide once effective have failed as the mites have grown resistant to the miticides (Apistan made by Bayer).
Joe Traynor also blames the lack of access to an unapproved Apistan substitute - Amitraz. Manufactured by the Boots Company in England it has been widely used for ticks and was available in bulk form. Boots pulled the bulk variety from the U.S. market to capitalize on the demand of beekeepers. Boots is ready to distribute a high price plastic strip laced with the product, specifically for the bee industry. Joe recons that beekeepers who stockpiled Amitraz suffered less this year than those who did not.
“They are going to find a new name for this after this year,” said Denise Qualls of The Pollination Connection, “it’s more than Colony Collapse.”