By now you've probably heard about the worrying phenomenon of bee colony collapse - a mysterious affliction which is wiping out the population of honey bees in the U.S. (If you don't think that's worrying, consider - who will pollinate all the food plants?) The cause of colony collapse is unknown and global warming or even mobile phone radiation have been suggested. Others have blamed the Varroa or "vampire" Mite.
But it appears that few, if any, of North America's organic bee keepers have been affected. An email being circulated from a Canadian organic beekeeper claims that:
I'm on an organic beekeeping list of about 1,000 people, mostly Americans, and no one in the organic beekeeping world, including commercial beekeepers, is reporting colony collapse on this list. The problem with the big commercial guys is that they put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies.While another organic beekeeper blames the problem on commercial grower's practises which force their bees to grow larger than they would in the wild.
In case you weren't aware, and I wasn't for a long time, the foundation in common usage results in much larger bees than what you would find in a natural hive. I've measured sections of natural worker brood comb that are 4.6mm in diameter. What most people use for worker brood is foundation that is 5.4mm in diameter. If you translate that into three dimensions instead of one, it produces a bee that is about half as large again as is natural. By letting the bees build natural sized cells, I have virtually eliminated my Varroa and Tracheal mite problems.Could the cause of colony collapse be that commercial beekeepers are simply pushing their insects too far and too fast in too many directions at once?
(H/t: Information Liberation)