Preliminary reports from the US suggest that this could be the worst year yet for colony collapse disorder. As the almond pollination comes to an end in central valley, Eric Mussen , extension apiculturist at University of California, Davis, says that beekeepers’ losses this year in his state are ranging from 30-80%. Jeff Pettis, research leader for the US government’s Agricultural Research Service’s honey bee laboratory is quoted in the Washington Post as saying: “I am very concerned about this year based on what we have seen in California and other parts of the United States.”
This will be the fourth year of surveying honeybee losses across the US since CCD. In 2007, beekeepers lost 32% of their colonies, in 2008 it was 36% and in 2009, 29%. But when 2010 figures are published in May, they could be the worse yet.
This should come as no surprise to readers of A World Without Bees. The stress factors affecting bees have not changed. Take poor nutrition – a combination of our monoculture methods of agriculture, which forces bees to feed on pollen-inferior crops such as cranberries and blueberries in the States and sunflowers in Europe, and the junk food diet of corn syrup and pollen substitutes fed to bees as a supplement.
What about the pesticides and fungicides that tests have failed to prove aren’t harmfall to bees? They are still being used in the States. And this spring in the wet almond groves more fungicide than normal has been sprayed by almond growers trying to prevent “bloom rot”.
The bees are still being trucked across time zones and climates to pollinate the almonds in February and March, when it’s too early in the season for them to be doing such hard work. It’s still pretty cold and bee colony is still building up.
The scientists are still doing the research trying to find the right mix of factors to recreate CCD in lab conditions so that they can have a better understand of what’s causing the die offs.
But what exactly are they going to do when they finally understand what many of use already know - that stress factors are compromising the honeybees immune system so they are uable to fend off the mites, viruses and, fungal disease?
Are they going to: tell the agrochemical companies to stop producing bee harmful pesticides; tell US farmers to produce their crops more sustainably rather than planting mile upon mile of the same crop; tell commercial beekeepers that beekeeping on that scale in the age of the varroa mite and nosema is contributing to bee stress and we should go back to farmers getting a few hives from their local beekeepers during pollination?
Oh, but there aren’t any local beekeepers because there’s nothing for their bees to eat 50 weeks of the year near those orchards, or those orchards, or those orchards planted with one pesticide-treated crop.
Perhaps we’ll get it when there aren’t enough honeybees left?