Yesterday I got the opportunity to hear Dr.Diana Cox-Foster (http://ento.psu.edu/directory/dxc12), one of the preeminent bee researchers, give a seminar at the University of Wisconsin about Colony Collapse Disorder. She stressed that the most recent findings of the iridovirus (see earlier posts) don't seem to fully explain CCD. They haven't been able to find this new virus in their collapsed hives in California and at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Cox-Foster advocates the more classic view of CCD: it is a cumulative effect of a wide variety of problems facing the bees. There are new viruses that interact with old pathogens, pesticide residues, and nutritional stress. She particularly stressed the lack of proper nutrition. Like people, bees need to eat a balanced diet; that means lots of different pollen sources all year long. In places where the bees don't have access to good food sources, some beekeepers supplement their diets with artificial pollen substitutes. These are very good, but like any supplement, you can't live on it forever and it isn't as good as the real thing. At Golden Hills, our top priority in selecting apiary locations is securing abundant, pesticide-free forage for our workers so we don't have to feed. Wild colonies, which are important for pollination, don't have this luxury, however.
Dr. Cox-Foster says that everyone should be pollinator advocate. The biggest single thing that an individual can do to help the bees is by making their yards bee-friendly. This involves planting flowers that are helpful to the bees and avoiding spraying your lawn with toxic chemicals. There are a lot of great references online about bee-friendly gardening. The University of California- Berkeley has a good site: http://nature.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/
Consider making your garden bee-friendly next year. If you have pictures of bees on your garden flowers or vegetables, send them to me and I will include some of them in our semi-annual newsletter. If you would like specific ideas about how to help the bees, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Want to share what you're already doing? Post a comment on the blog to share it with others!
Bees communicate through a complex system of pheromones and dances. Dances vary in speed and style and can let one bee communicate the exact location of a nectar source several miles away. This blog is our way to communicate with you about the latest things going on at Golden Hills.