Bee colonies collapsing as workers abandon hives
Posted April 10, 2013
Willow Spring, N.C. — The honeybees are busy in Danny Jaynes' backyard in Willow Spring.
“They're going out to get water, nectar and pollen,” he said. “That's their source of food.”
Jaynes, president of the North Carolina Beekeepers Association, thought he'd have more bees this spring.
He had 12 hives last fall. Now, only two are active after the bees abandoned the other 10.
It's a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder, and it's happening all over North America and Europe. Beekeepers and scientists say it has gotten worse in the past few years.
“The hive just abandons,” Jaynes said. “They'll abandon everything - everything but the queen and a handful of bees.”
Federal officials say there are a number of factors that lead to colony collapse, and there is no direct link between that and insecticides. But a new Harvard study says there is, especially with one particular pesticide called imidacloprid. The pesticide is part of a class called neonicotinoids, which are commonly used on farms and home gardens.
In the study, 15 of 16 bee hives treated with the pesticide died after six months. Those exposed to the highest levels disappeared first.
“It's highly toxic to honeybees, yet they don't stop the sale,” Jaynes said.
Honeybees are integral to the food chain because they pollinate seeds. Jaynes says the bee losses could lead to food shortages as early as this fall.
He says it's time to look at alternatives to the pesticide that he says is wiping out the nation's honeybees.
"I can contend with mites, I can contend with the viral and bacterial problems," Jaynes said. "We know how to help the bees with that. We have no help with this."