I met with a dozen or so local beekeepers tonight, looking to get my feet wet in advance of plunging into beginner beekeeping planned for the coming spring. While I’d read of Colony Collapse Disorder in passing, it was enlightening to hear experienced beekeepers’ stories of recent collapses among their hives.
One beekeeper with 40+ years’ experience described visiting his hives recently to discover one had completely vanished. Another beekeeper working with established commercial hives described a similar scene. One day the bees are happily humming along with their bee business, and the next day they vanish from the hive without a trace. No dying or dead bees, no physical sign of disturbance, no positive tests for mites or other typical pests — nothing. They’re just here one moment and disappeared the next.
Experienced beekeepers in the group said they had little trouble raising bees in the past, and never have seen bees vanishing without a trace until 8 or 10 years or so. While there are numerous theories about the potential impact of pesticides, bees being trucked around the country spreading parasites and other illnesses to local bees, disturbances in weather patterns, and increased cell phone use, that doesn’t answer the question of how bees simply vanish without leaving any clues behind about what caused them to abruptly abscond.
I’m looking forward to learning more as I get started with the spring apiary. Hopefully I can make a tiny contribution toward maintaining a healthy bee population, or at least discover clues about the causes and potential prevention of future colony collapses.