Who could hate a bee and be her enemy? Well, it turns out there are a lot of natural bee enemies. Bees have struggled ever since the beginning of time with pests that want to destroy them from within. Some are old enemies and some are newer.
Varroa Mites started out being a pest to the Asian bee and later moved on to the European honeybee (what we know as honeybees). Varroa mites did not make there way to the United States until 1987 and it didn’t take long for it to rise to the top of the list of bee enemies where it still sits today. The mite sneaks into the bees cell right before it is sealed. While there is feeds off of a bees fat bodies and reproduces under the protective cell cap. If that wasn’t bad enough, as it feeds off off the bee it also introduces other viruses into its body. One of the first visual signs that you have an infestation is the appearance of deformed wings on bees. There are treatments that can reduce the number of mites in a hive, but they can never really be gotten rid of. Treatment for mites can be nasty chemicals too that are not good for bees or humans. At Bee Lovely we treat our bees with a combination of CNG (Certified Natural Grown) treatments. We believe that it is better for the bees and the end products of honey, wax, propolis, and pollen is cleaner as well.
Nosema is a fungal infection that affects the intestinal tract of honeybees, most of the year it is not a big deal but shows up more in winter. Honeybees are extremely clean animals and will not go to the bathroom in the hive. In the winter they will hold it until the weather warms up to above freezing and is sunny. They will then make a quick flight out to finally go. However, nosema is like honeybee disentary and they can’t hold it any longer and relieve themselves in the hive or just outside the entrance. This eventually leads to more bees getting sick and spreading the problem further. One of the treatments for nosema is antibiotics, but we have chosen to use a treatment based on essential oils and plant sterols. Studies have shown that it is just as effective as antibiotics without the long term effects that antibiotics can cause.
Neonicitinoids are a special type of pesticide, it is a seed coating that once the seed it planted it is incorporated in the whole plant, all fluid in the plant then contains pesticide. The trouble is that this is not just used on agricultural seeds but also many decorative plants and vegetables. When CCD was first noticed many concerned beekeepers started looking at the research on the lethal dosage for bees. What they eventually found was that the research was faulty and that the lethal dose for bees is much lower than originally thought. Many other countries have banned the major neonicitinoids and have seen bee populations improve. More research is coming on systemic pesticides as well as others once thought to be safe. We are also seeing that glyphosate and fungicides are causing problems with a bees reproductive capabilities and gut health. Closing thought on pesticides is be very careful with pesticides that you spray in your yard.
Colony Collapse was first discovered in 2006 when beekeepers where noticing their hive populations dwindling over the summer. In most cases bees are relatively healthy in the spring and summer when their populations turns over consistently and they can leave the hive to do their work. The signs of CCD are that the hive has a queen, she is laying eggs and brood is being reared, but the population in the hive just continues to diminish. As mentioned before bees are very clean and when they know they are sick they will leave the hive to die otherwise fellow bees have to remove the body and possibly spread the disease. When a hive is being plagued by CCD the bees leave knowing they are sick, as this continues there are less bees to care for the young ones. The queen then lays less eggs because of the lack of worker bees and the hive continues this till it is dead. To date there is no final decision as to what causes CCD, the closest researchers have come is finding that all infected hives have mites and nosema. The trouble is that bees have been dealing with those for a long time and not seen effects like we are now. Many beekeepers now believe that it is a combination of varroa, nosema, and systemic pesticides. Pesticides might be the straw that broke the camels back and bees can no longer thrive if all three are present.
Unfortunately for bees there are so many outside forces trying to take them down. For us beekeepers we have to stay on top of the latest research on how to treat them and what are the newest enemies on the horizon. Zombie Bees are right around the corner (in case you are wondering; yes, it is real).
We are asked all the time if the bees are doing better? Well that is a loaded question and depends on the overall goal of asking. Is the honeybee populations increasing? Yes. Well there, I am glad we made it through that rough patch. If life were only that easy.
In 2006, when colony collapse was first reported, people became nervous about the health of the honeybee. Since that time many people picked up the mantle to be a beekeeper and bee colonies have since seen an increase in numbers. Does that mean that bees are getting better or there is just more bees?
Bees are still suffering.
Bees are still suffering like they were, in fact the number of honeybee deaths are continuing to increase. So how is it that bee populations are increasing, then? Good question.
Bees are a fantastic animal that can populate quickly. A good queen can produce almost 2000 eggs a day when food supply is plentiful. There is also money to be made from bees, making it financially advantageous to be a beekeeper. Bees can make so much honey that the excess can be sold, pollinations services are needed more now than ever, and other products from a beehive are in high demand. The reason bees are not in a decline is because beekeepers are stepping up to help this amazing little bug and can make money doing what they love.
But what if bees are not so easy to keep, or money can’t be made from them? We can see the effects of that with the Rusty Patch Bumble Bee. The Rusty Patch Bumblebee was once prolific around the Great Lakes Region, but it was placed on the endangered species list last year. It does not make enough honey to sell, you can’t easily domesticate it, and its hive is limited in size because the queen is the only one that survives winter.
Other pollinators are in decline
Other natural pollinators are seeing the same kind of decline in their populations. If it becomes financially insolvent to be a beekeeper, many businesses will give up and decide to let their passion go. If hives continually die, many hobbyists will also throw in the towel. If that happens, we will once again see a huge decline to the bee populations.
What is the simplest way to help the bees? Help the beekeepers. Beekeepers are on the front lines keeping bees alive and healthy, but we need your help to do it. We need you to buy our products, support our business, and spread the word. We need you to let your dandelions bloom and to stop using sprays that harm bees. We need you to plant flowers that are not treated with systemic pesticides, so bees have more forage. We need you to be calm and call a beekeeper when you see a wild swarm dangling from a tree in your front yard.
Bee Lovely Botanicals has an excellent option that allows you to support beekeeping and get a little in return. Our Adopt-A-Hive programs is geared toward giving you the knowledge you need to do your part and the support we need to do ours. With our Adopt-A-Hive program you get to pick between a full share or half share. Each share includes equal amount of product as your investment, a hive manual, an adoption certificate, and hive updates. You can also name the queen with the full share option.
Please join us on Facebook for our 2nd Annual Pollinators Trivia Night. We’ll be giving away an awesome honeybee inspired gift set to person with the most knowledge of honeybees and the fastest typing fingers.
We just got back from Nashville, can you tell? We were vendors at the Country Living Fair and we were so happy to get a little southern sun and warmth while there. We also were blessed to meet so many wonderful vendors and customers. We want to thank all of you that participated in our questionnaire from last month. It definitely was nice to get to know you a little more and gain some valuable information on how to serve you better. Congratulations to Danielle on winning the $50 gift certificate for participation.
I know we make what we do look easy (he he he), but it can surely take a toll on a person’s spirit to always need to be on the cutting edge. We were so very encouraged by our neighbor vendor who had been doing shows for awhile. She gave us to the great advice to follow God’s direction (if this is on our heart then continue, He will provide a way to make it happen).
We know we have a great product, we love beekeeping, and we love the opportunity to serve our customers. However problems always crop up that make doing those things challenging. Computer issues that make running an online store difficult, having all of our bees die over the winter (apparently the US has had a huge bee die off this past year), and finding time to wear all our many hats can be very trying.
This beautiful, sunny day, we are going to clean out our hives. This is probably the saddest beekeeping day of the year, but even more so when you have no surviving hives. We’ve already missed seeing them buzz around the yard when the temperature creeps up in early spring, and our budding dandelions look really bare this year.
While we were in Nashville, we spoke with a bee inspector from Ohio. He said that both Ohio and Tennessee experienced heavy losses this year. We’ve also heard that large commercial operations in Michigan had losses exceeding 75% and that no hives survived in one Michigan county.
It’s discouraging and expensive to have to replace your entire apiary. If a cattle farmer lost all of his cows, if a majority of beef farmers over 3 states lost even half of their herd, people would wonder what was going on. When a beekeeper loses bees, people say you should have put them inside, you should have used antibiotics, you shouldn’t treat at all, you should this and that all day long. The truth is, this is a problem much larger than any individual beekeeper’s methods. Traditional, natural, non-treatment beekeepers all sustained heavy losses.
Bee populations are sustained by beekeepers. We read a recent study that bee populations are rebounding, and CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is not a problem any more. Looking at the surface of these statistics, the number of beehives in the US may be on the rise, but the true statistic you need to look at is survival rates. If you were to look at the population at the beginning of March this year, my guess is that it would have been very low. In another few weeks, beekeepers will be rebuilding their hives, and the numbers should look a little closer to normal. Should beekeepers stop rebuilding their hives, the true weight of the problem would be realized. Ross Conrad has an excellent 6 part series on the effects of pesticides (especially neonicatinamides) on bees. (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part V,Part VI ). In Part IV Ross explains that honeybees are actually faring better than some of their pollinating counterparts because of the intervention of beekeepers.
This is where our Adopt A Hive Program comes into play. It’s an excellent way to support honey bee populations, while also getting some awesome products and education. Each Adopt A Hive comes with an adoption certificate, hive updates, a Hive Awareness Manual, and products or honey.
It makes a great gift for Mother’s or Father’s Day. You could use the full share option and customize products for your mom, mother-in-law and grandmothers. 1. Finish shopping 2. Save the bees. Check!
Our Adopt a Hive program is also a great way to learn about bees in the classroom. Our full share option includes 4 video hive updates, the kids get to name the queen and we would ‘bee’ delighted to customize gift bags for the classroom. We’ll even bring the field trip to you by bringing the queen bee into the classroom in our observation hive (within reasonable distance).
We currently have 27 hives available for adoption, below you can see how the share program is broken down.
Full Share: Cost: $200. Includes:$200 worth of products (you can get all honey, all skincare products, or mix of both), 4 hive updates through the season, A Hive Awareness Manual, you get to name the queen, a personalized adoption certificate, and a fully customized honey tag if you choose to get honey.
Half Share: Cost:$100. $100 worth of products (honey or products), 3 hive updates throughout the season, A Hive Awareness Manual, adoption certificate, a customized honey label, and you are in a drawing with another half share to have the opportunity to name the queen.
Quarter Share: Cost is $50, with that you get $50 worth of products (honey or products), 2 hive updates throughout the season, Hive Awareness Manual, and an adoption certificate.
These options are already pre-populated with some of our best sellers, but just contact us if you would like to fully customize your box.
Let us know if you have any questions. We’d be happy to discuss custom options with you.