Monday, August 10, 2015

Beekeepers more at risk of going extinct than bees

Declining bee populations are not threatening the existence of bees but the jobs of beekeepers, especially those running small operations, Leah Sottile reports for The Washington Post. Ramesh Sagili, principal investigator at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab, told her, “People ask me, ‘The bees are going to be extinct soon?’ I’m not worried about bees being extinct here. I’m worried about beekeepers being extinct.” (Post photo by Leah Nash: Beekeepers in Oregon move their hives to orchards and farms around the West Coast)

The bad news is that honeybees, which pollinate $15 billion worth of crops, lost 42.1 percent of colonies last year. The good news is that overall colony numbers in 2014 were the highest in 20 years, at 2.7 million. Pesticides have been partially to blame for colony losses.

"Bees are still dying at unacceptable rates, especially in Florida, Oklahoma and several states bordering the Great Lakes, according to the Bee Informed Partnership, a research collaborative supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," Sottile writes. "Last month, Ohio State University’s Honey Bee Update noted that losses among the state’s beekeepers over the past winter were as high as 80 percent."

One of the main problems is that losing a queen likely means that hive is doomed, Sottile writes. That spells trouble for smaller operations because too many queenless hives could mean the end of a business. Other disasters could also be deadly for smaller businesses running on a fixed budget. George Hansen, past president of the American Beekeeping Federation, told her, “It is hard, and it costs a lot of money. There’s a certain toll you have to pay for when things go wrong. . . . How many times can you take those kinds of hits and still get up and do it again?” (Read more)

No comments: