Unfortunately, there are many challenges bees (and their keepers) face in modern day beekeeping, making it all the more important for commercial beekeepers and hobbyists alike to keep current with research and best practices.
WATCH an amazing June 2013 TED Talk by Marla Spivak, where she explains why bees are disappearing.
Why you should listen to Marla: Bees pollinate a third of our food supply — they don’t just make honey! — but colonies have been disappearing at alarming rates in many parts of the world due to the accumulated effects of parasitic mites, viral and bacterial diseases, and exposure to pesticides and herbicides. Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota professor of entomology and 2010 MacArthur Fellow, tries as much as possible to think like bees in her work to protect them. They’re “highly social and complex” creatures, she says, which fuels her interest and her research.
Spivak has developed a strain of bees, the Minnesota Hygienic line, that can detect when pupae are infected and kick them out of the nest, saving the rest of the hive. Now, Spivak is studying how bees collect propolis, or tree resins, in their hives to keep out dirt and microbes. She is also analyzing how flowers’ decline due to herbicides, pesticides and crop monoculture affect bees’ numbers and diversity. Spivak has been stung by thousands of bees in the course of her work.
Parasitic mites (Varroa and Tracheal) are the greatest threat to beekeeping. And although these mites can be kept under control by a persistent beekeeper, the negative effects on the honeybee population has been devastating. Mites are greatly reducing the overall honeybee population in the USA. The mites are of no concern to humans, except for the effect they can have on honey production and honeybee health.
Beekeepers are on the watch for various diseases unique to honeybees (which are all harmless to humans). “Foul Brood” and “Nosema” are two such diseases. These problems can be addressed by good management and proper medication.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
Well covered in the media over the past few years, CCD is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease), the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006 in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honeybee colonies in North America.
The mechanisms of CCD and the reasons for its increasing prevalence remain unclear, but many possible causes have been proposed: pesticides (in particular, those of the neonicotinoid class); infections with Varroa and Acarapis mites; malnutrition; various pathogens;genetic factors; immunodeficiencies; loss of habitat; changing beekeeping practices; electromagnetic radiation from electronic communication devices; or a combination of factors.
The arrival of so-called “killer bees” in a few southern states has received sensationalized treatment in the media. In some areas of the country, this negative publicity has stimulated local restrictions and ordinances on the hobbyist beekeeper.
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