Colony Collapse Disorder? Oh Please…..

Since I don’t own a television, I usually have the NY Times set as the home page on my computer, which allows me to at least glance at the headlines and know if the sky is about to fall or anything like that. This morning, while scrolling around the page, “Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Keepers in Peril” headline caught my eye. It’s in the Business section, something I normally wouldn’t read, but I didn’t realize that until I read the article. You can follow the link to read it yourself.

Excuse me, but if the honeybees really do vanish, there’s going to be more in peril than the beekeepers!

800px-Bee on Geraldton Wax Flowerphoto from Wikipedia

When I was a kid, always interested in natural history, I read the most fascinating article in National Geographic, I think (but I’m not certain), about honeybees. The author told the life history of the honeybees and there were lots of nice pictures. The part that stuck with me though, was the author’s personal experience of a honeybee in his house, that finally collapsed and appeared to die on the windowsill after flying for hours against a closed window. The author then opened the window a few inches and observed. Within a short time, another bee found its fallen commrade, and the author watched as the rescue bee fed the downed bee – presumably honey. In a short time, the fallen bee revived and flew off with its rescuer. That story made a huge impression on me and has stayed with me to this day.

I think the other reason I loved the story was because of our own personal wild honeybee hive – we shared our home with honeybees. Well, just a corner of the roof – but we had our moments.

In this post, I talked about our old house.

sussexhouseIf you look at the photo, you’ll see where the roof attaches to the house in the upper corner. The corner I’m talking about is on the opposite side of the nearest corner in the photo, and just over the back door.

At some point in the house’s history (1870s) a honeybee queen and her drones moved into the attic wall, apparently through some small hole – perhaps a nail hole – under the roof at that corner.

The walls in this old house were something called ‘plaster and lathe’ – they were about a foot thick, and hollow in the middle. I remember seeing them when minor repairs or remodeling were done. We found a high-buttoned shoe in one. Once in a while, a squirrel would get inside the wall, and we could hear a hickory or walnut go rolling down the inside of the wall, with the squirrel in hot pursuit. So who minded a few thousand honeybees?

Oh, during the earlier years, my father had beekeepers come out and attempt to collect the swarm, fearing they would damage the house. After many unsuccessful attempts – he decided to just leave them alone. They never bothered us, we didn’t bother them, and we all co-existed for 35 years without any problems. I’m not sure if they are still there.

They were fun to have around, actually, and we always had good crops and gorgeous flowers. It was sort of fun to watch the reaction of visitors when, as they approached the house, they could hear bees but weren’t sure where they were. There were always several dozen swarming around the corner of the house as they came and went. Sometimes there would be a die-off of older bees, and we’d find dozens of dead bees on the ground.

I used to go up to the attic, put my ear to the wall in that corner, and listen to bees. I wish I could do that still.

It saddens me that truly wild bees are rare. I can’t help but suspect that bees must glean something they need from living wild and undisturbed in natural places – be it old trees or old houses. By ‘managing’ them in artificial hives, have we taken something from them that is essential to their survival? By robbing them of the honey, have we damaged them in some way?

To me, the article in the NYTimes illustrates the dollar sign we attach to everything. But much more important is the underlying picture of what is happening to our Earth, and our indifference to what we are doing. It boggles my mind to see what we have done and continue to do – and then people act surprised when something is out of balance, or a species is disappearing, or there’s a new disease – like this shouldn’t be happening and ohmygosh, what’s going on? It’s a scary thing.

Colony Collapse Disorder? Sounds more like Idiot Human Disorder to me.

11 Responses to “Colony Collapse Disorder? Oh Please…..”

  1. John Says:

    I think that another pollinator would rise to take the place of honeybees and fill that natural niche. In the U.S., at least, I believe that the honeybee is not native, so there are already other species that were (presumably) pushed out by it. Presumably some of these would return to their natural roles. But, yes, it is sad to see any species disappear, but especially one that is so familiar.

  2. KGMom Says:

    Our local paper (here in central PA) recently ran a front page story on honey bees being imperiled. I was so glad to see the article, as anything that educates the public is good. This part of Pennsylvania has many orchards, so the collapse of bee colonies would truly be disastrous.
    Also, Penn State Univesity is hard at work to try to figure out what the problem is with bees. It’s not the mite this time, but what it is no one knows, yet.

  3. Laura Says:

    I heard this story on NPR this morning – didn’t hear that they had any idea what the problem is or how to fix it.

    Your story of living with bees is really, really cool. I think I would have loved to have bees sharing my house.

    Have you read any of Sue Hubbell’s books? She writes about bees often, and other insects. Look for her sometime if you don’t know her.

  4. Steph Says:

    This is very interesting in light of the honeybee/GM crops debate:

    “Bees in the US are increasingly afflicted with a strain of antibiotic resistant American foulbrood (AFB). Before the advent of antibiotics, this bacterial infection was the most serious bee disease in the world. Tetracycline had been used effectively against AFB for 40 years until 1996. In that year, tetracycline resistance was confirmed in both Argentina and the upper Midwestern states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Since then, it has spread to at least 17 states in the US, including New York, and to parts of Canada. During the 1990s, millions of acres of Round-up Ready crops were planted in the US, Canada, and Argentina. According to my information, the antibiotic resistant gene used in the creation of Round-up Ready crops was resistant to tetracycline. After 40 years of effective usage against an infective bacterium found in the guts of honeybees, suddenly two geographically isolated countries develop tetracycline resistance simultaneously. A common thread between the US, Canada and Argentina is the widespread and recent cultivation of GM crops containing tetracycline resistant genes. ”
    http://www.biotech-info.net/bee_j_editorial.html

    Note the date, a full seven years ago …

  5. obi4240 Says:

    John – one can only hope. But after almost 400 years in the U.S., I think we can consider them part of our ecosystem, and at least in this case, a good part.

    KGMom – agreed, education is good. I think most of the general public is oblivious to what happens in Nature. Scary.

    Laura – Yes! I’ve read Sue Hubbell’s books – as soon as they were published. In fact I looked for the first one in the library yesterday to re-read it, but it wasn’t there. Got a different one, called Sweetness & Light by Hattie Ellis. Looks interesting.

    Steph – that’s really interesting, given the age of it. I suspect it may be a combination of problems.. Thanks for the link.

  6. Steven Haylestrom Says:

    The beekeeping industry is in crisis looking for an answer to the cause of CCD. The current problem in a long string of industry challenges.

    Instead of constantly having to duck the next blow, is there a way beekeepers get out of this awful cycle and build sustainable beekeeping? The simple answer is YES!

    I have worked one on one with commercial beekeepers throughout North America, helping them find a new direction.

    That of SUSTAINABLE chemical free beekeeping.

    Mite-Away II (the product manufactured by the company I work for) uses formic acid, an organic acid found in nature, to kill varroa and tracheal mites. As well formic acid has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-septic properties that help to cleanse the honeybee colony and improve the overall health of the colony. Formic acid leaves no harmful residues and and does not contaminate the colony in any way.

    Every third bite of food you take is produced thanks to pollination by honeybees. Sustainable beekeeping is possible and beekeepers cannot only survive, but thrive.

    As a company, we’re trying to help find a solution to CCD with a new attitude and a new way of thinking.

    If you need any further information please feel free to contact me at Steven(put an at sign here)Haylestrom.com I would be happy to answer any questions or check us out at http://www.MiteAway.com

    Thanks,

    Steven Haylestrom
    NOD Apiary Products

  7. Nina Says:

    For a few weeks, my group and I have researched Colony Collapse Disorder and Honey Bees. I agree with KGMom, that a large percentage of people do not know about this growing problem. Many sources that we have researched say that Colony Collapse Disorder exists. What are your opinions on this matter?

  8. Emma Says:

    For a school project we have to try to invent something that will help our society. Studied colony collapse disorder and have decieded to invent a artifical bee. I have been suspicious about if colony collapse disorder is really real or if people are making a big deal out of nothing or as you said maybe people think colony collapse disorder is real because all the bee are in artifical colonies. We invent a artifical bee that farmers can buy to pollinate their crops and that make honey so people dont have to keep bees in colonies so hopefully our invention will be sent to toshiba and become a reality.

    Emma 13, Sarah 13, and Nina 13

  9. How to Get Six Pack Fast Says:

    I follow your blog for quite a long time and should tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

  10. Honey Beekeeping Says:

    CCD is real, and serious. You could even say its real serious.


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