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Professional Beekeepers Warn That Policies Based on ‘Colony Collapse’ Mania are Hurting Biodiversity

Professional Beekeepers Warn That Policies Based on ‘Colony Collapse’ Mania are Hurting Biodiversity

“There are now more honey bees on the planet than there have ever been in human history.”

The last time we checked on bees, a California court ruled that bees could be classified in a category initially intended for use for fish and aquatic life in an endangered species law.

However, beekeepers are warning that the threat of bee extinction has been wildly overstated. Eco-activists trying to fix a non-existent problem have hurt the environment.

When I toured Ljubljana, Slovenia, in 2022, I noticed the place was essentially run by “flower children.” The New York Times published a review of the realities experienced by a professional beekeeper in that city who tends hives competing with those of “bee saviors” who believed the hype about the drop in bee populations.

…Gorazd Trusnovec, a 50-year-old with a graying goatee who is the founder and sole employee of an enterprise called Najemi Panj, which translates to “rent-a-hive.” For a yearly fee, he will install a honey bee colony on the roof of an office, or in a backyard, and ensure that its bees are healthy and productive. Customers get the honey and the pleasure of doing something that benefits bees and nourishes the environment.

That, at any rate, was Mr. Trusnovec’s original sales pitch. In recent years, he and other beekeepers, as well as a broad variety of leading conservationists, have come to a very different conclusion: The craze for honey bees now presents a genuine ecological challenge. Not just in Slovenia, but around the world.

“If you overcrowd any space with honey bees, there is a competition for natural resources, and since bees have the largest numbers, they push out other pollinators, which actually harms biodiversity,” he said, after a recent visit to the B&B bees. “I would say that the best thing you could do for honey bees right now is not take up beekeeping.”

The panic began in 2006, with a phenomenon that was described as “colony collapse disorder.”

Since 2006, the bee labs at the Alabama-based University of Auburn and the University of Maryland have tracked rates of “colony collapse disorder,” or when a hive fails entirely.

That timing was no accident: The disorder first appeared in 2006, when a rash of beekeepers began to describe a surreal occurrence in which adult worker bees deserted a hive, leaving the queen and her larvae behind.

But it turns out it is capitalism for the win regarding a solution to the supposed “bee crisis.”

Honey bees, it turns out, are a commercially managed animal — essentially livestock, like cows — and large beekeeping operations are remarkably adept at replacing colonies that die. In the United States, about one million hives are trucked each year to places like California, where honey bees pollinate almonds and other crops, Mr. Black said. It’s a major industry.

While techniques for nurturing hives have improved, honey bees remain vulnerable animals. As of a few years ago, nearly 30 percent of commercial honey bees still did not survive the winter months, says the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a large number and one that puts a financial strain on commercial beekeepers.

“But that’s an agriculture story, not a conservation story,” Mr. Black said. “There are now more honey bees on the planet than there have ever been in human history.”

Unfortunately for Europeans, the bee mania still has significant regulatory consequences. Europe’s sugar beet growers are being forced to turn away from the crop in a move that could drive soaring prices even higher because of mandates related to insecticides they can use.

Farmers are switching crops after the European Union’s top court ruled in January they can no longer be granted exemptions to a ban on so-called neonics – insecticides which protect against diseases like virus yellows in sugar beet but are toxic to bees and other pollinators vital to food production.

The ruling, which the bloc and environmental groups say is critical for safeguarding pollinators, some of which are currently threatened with extinction, has led to a cut in acreage devoted to sugar beet as crop yields suffer, farmers and industry experts told Reuters.

“In our region, we lost 15% of the (sugar beet) area (this year),” said Alexandre Pele, who has a 240 hectare farm in central France.

“I have struggled to meet volume commitments with the sugar factory because my yields have declined notably due to the ban on neonicotinoids,” said Pele.

In conclusion, the data shows another case where using “scientific consensus” for political purposes has collapsed in the face of reality.

As I touched upon wines yesterday, I want to conclude with a note about one of my favorite drinks.


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“Eco-activists trying to fix a non-existent problem have hurt the environment.”

Second verse same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

This is almost always what happens. Most activists have no knowledge and no experience but lots of self-righteousness.

“There are now more honey bees on the planet than there have ever been in human history.”
Since they learned how to interbreed with polar bears, baby seals, and red-crowned parrots.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to henrybowman. | September 26, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    What happened to all of the Cartesian bears?

    MattMusson in reply to henrybowman. | September 27, 2023 at 6:56 am

    Just for perspective – the Invasive European Honeybee was introduced into North America, went wild and slowly expanded across the continent. Native Americans called it the White Fly.

    As Honeybees settled into the Southern USA, they took over all the hollows that served as breeding colonies for the Carolina Parakeet and the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Those birds populations crashed by over 90% and they never recovered.

    Invasive Honeybees killed the Carolina Parakeet and the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. They are both now extinct.

I haven’t tracked the prices obsessively, but there’s been no sizable uptick in the prices of hive starters (“nucs”). If honeybees were dying left and right, you’d expect demand to increase and nucs to get more expensive.

Blessed are the beekeepers. It’s in the Bible.

I know a small operation beekeeper. He’ stays local and his bees are in almond orchards. He’s not had colony collapse.

I know he mixes medicinal products into winter time bee food (gotta feed them if you take their honey.)

Wax moth can be a problem. He showed me one super ruined by them.

He was saying that big operators moving up and down the west coast between California, Oregon etc.. stresses the bees, and that stress is a possible factor in hive problems

I recall him saying that pollinating cranberries is physically hard on bees and simply wears them out faster.

    CincyJan in reply to Tiki. | September 26, 2023 at 8:42 pm

    I read the book The Queen Must Die (could not resist the title), and found out that the bees we see flying around our yards and orchards are at the end of their short lives. And the constant flying wears out their wings. Sadly, there is no retirement plan in a bee hive. Worn out bees are pushed out by their more energetic sisters. Work or die. Under some circumstances, not all of which are understood, the hive turns against the queen …. and they kill her. A hive is as ruthless as Game of Thrones!

I plant flowers that honey bees supposedly favor in smaller sections around my mini orchard and gardens to attract them to help pollinate. Seems to work just fine. Lots of honeybees ambling about in season. Supposedly they can venture out up to 5/6 miles from their hive though I am not a bee expert. Just passed down folk wisdom that seems to be confirmed by my basic gardening research.

Feral bees are doing fine…. A segment of beekeepers use only local bees that have adapted to the area. The downside is that they are more aggressive. That said…. my friends order new bees each year and get a huge amount of honey. I have my horizontal hive ready for next year… ready to take the plunge. Plan is to attract feral bees and winter them if possible….

    CommoChief in reply to alaskabob. | September 27, 2023 at 8:49 am

    Cool. Let us know how that works. I would be interested in learning about your experience and how much effort is involved v the payoff as well as any pointers you learn along the way!

1. The rapid spread of the varroa mite (the primary cause of honeybee colonies die off today) is solely due to the commercial beekeeping practice of shipping colonies to California for the almond crop pollination and then shipping them back to their home states.

2. The commercial beekeeping response has been to greatly increase the chemical treatments of their colonies, which has the long term counterproductive effect of not letting the bees adapt and learn how to live with / defeat the mite.

3. Honeybees in the wild HAVE learned how to deal with varroa. This is best documented by Cornell’s Dr. Tom Seeley, who measured the number of colonies in Cornell’s forest prior to and post varroa, and found no difference – the feral colonies had learned how to live with varroa. 

Our local fat honey bees are cool and welcome. In my opinion the local “ground bees” can go straight to hell. They seem more committed to swarming and bothering and stinging people than they do pollinating,

I’ve had to also deal with carpenter bees. Their entry holes are things of beauty. A large squirt of permethrins fixed that.