I’m just going to address this issue for posterity sake, so many years from now, when the national media does its exposé on Westside Bee Boyz LLC and our rise to the dominant beekeeping company in America, we founders of the company (Thad, John, and myself) will be able to show that we have never wavered in our stance and ethos on beekeeping.
So as to the question, “What is causing the bee deaths / Colony Collapse Disorder?” Here is my 2 cents:
I don’t know.
I think we, as a society, love answers, or better yet, we love facts. Especially when I talk about honeybees, I too, fall into this trap. I will tell children and interested adults, “Bees only collect 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime. Bees will fly up to 5 miles away from their hive, and return. Bees can be attributed to 2/3 of the bites of food we take.” Etc. Etc.
They’re fascinating, quick, and compelling. They are mildly useful, simply because they open the door to additional discussions about honeybees and their many miraculous feats.
But facts and knowledge are two different things. The best entomologists, biochemists, and the like are up to their eyeballs trying to figure this stuff out, and I will leave them to it. What I have learned from honeybees is this: as an individual organism the honeybee has a fairly weak immune system. They need the collective colony to be as healthy as possible which will lead to their collective survival. Any bee that carries a vector of disease / illness will ultimately lead to “chink the armor” of the colony’s health.
So any vector, whether it be the varroa mite, pesticide, or small hive beetle, will weaken the hive. This, in addition to poor beekeeping practices such as supplying poor nutrition and overworking and stressing colonies by trans country pollination treks, as well as the overall lack of genetic diversity are ALL contributors to our bee die-offs.
Now throw in the clinically proven effects of neonictinoids that have been banned in Europe but are still applied readily by farmers and gardeners alike in the U.S., and we are asking this poor animal to perform yet another miracle – survive. Neonictinoid pesticides have devastating effects on honeybee health. It’s not a parasite. It’s a chemical. And we as a species are purchasing, applying, and have not a forethought of its ramifications.
Pests and parasites will always be problems for farmers and their stock, but dealing with troublesome humans I believe is a unique struggle that only we beekeepers must endure. So please do your part, become informed and give them a better shot of performing their many natural miracles.