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Photo taken by Karsten Drre on Wikimedia

Reprinted with permssion of the Eatonville, WA. Dispatch.
The Dispatch writer Bruce Smith is an area resident.

“While honey bee stocks collapsed nationwide in at least 24 states, endangering billions of dollars worth of crops, local beekeepers, so far safe from this winter’s mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), have intensified their vigilance.

‘We have not seen any evidence of CCD in the 150 or so WSU colonies located around Pullman,” says Washington State University’s leading bee scholar Professor W. Steve Sheppard, “nor any in the 30 or so we have over in Pierce County.’

CCD is the total, and nearly instantaneous, demise of a bee hive. According to a widely quoted New York Times article of Feb. 27, beekeepers on the east coast and parts of Texas are reporting a 70 percent disappearance of bees, while California reports nearly 60 percent. Officials do not know what is causing this unique kind of die-off.

Entire colonies vacate their hive and are never seen again. Occasionally, some emptied hives are found that contain a few survivors. Examinations reveal that these bees are exceedingly ill with multiple parasitic and fungal infestations.

Local reports vary. In Eatonville, beekeeper David Mitman says he hasn’t lost any hives, but Roy Park reports a loss of 2/3: 80 out of 120 hives.

Long-time Pierce County beekeeper Harvard Robbins states he has lost 20 colonies out of 50 this past winter.

‘But I lost 40 out of 40 a year ago to tracheal and varroa mites, so who knows what’s causing the unusual colony collapse this year,” he said. “It could be a combination of things including mites, the stress of being trucked thousands of miles to pollinate agricultural fields or even feeding on the genetically modified crops so prevalent nowadays.’

John Timmons of Timmons’ Honey Farm in Graham thinks local stocks are holding their own but require strong vigilance against the mites and cold weather. Timmons works closely with Eric Olson of Yakima, who administers over 9,000 bee colonies – many of which are heading to western Washington to pollinate blueberries in the Orting Valley. Olson is reported to have lost 2,000 colonies this winter, which has become the expected norm in the bee industry.

‘But, when I started back in 1974,’ declares Robbins, ‘we never had losses like that. It’s all come from the growing number of problems bees are facing today, especially the arrival of mites in the late ’70s.’

Bees perform two vital roles in our nation’s food chain. One is the production of honey, while the other is pollination. Some foods, such as almonds and apples, depend heavily on bee pollination to develop a crop. Hence, colony collapse disorder is a very serious threat to our food supply,” quoting The Dispatch.

Bruce Smith
Photo courtesy of Yelm-based photographer Guustaaf Damave

“The Puget Sound Beekeepers Association is formed to promote the common interest and general welfare of beekeeping, to protect honeybees, to educate beekeepers, encourage good bee management practices, and to encourage good public relations between beekeepers and the public,” quoting their site. Dave Mitman is al ocal officer of the Assn.

Further, this story on the subject from the Christian Science Monitor:
“What’s happening to the bees?
Suddenly, the bees farmers and growers rely on are vanishing. Researchers are scrambling to find out why. The cause of the die-off has yet to be determined. Its effect on the food supply may be significant. Longer-term, it may also force a rethinking of some agricultural practices including our heavy reliance on human-managed bees for pollination. The Christian Science Monitor reports that to insure crop pollination, scientists suggest increasing habitat for native pollinators. Evidence suggests that the honeybee disappearance may be due to bee immune systems weakened by varroa mites, pesticides, poor nutrition, genetically modified crops, and other factors.”

Bruce Smith’s own website is The Quantum Story.

Posted by Steve on April 20, 2007 at 6:33 am | Permalink

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