Page 1 of 13

Bee die-off perplexes scientists

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:11 pm
by Jeff
Bee die-off perplexes scientists

Loss of insects that pollinate plants threatens crops throughout U.S.


PHILADELPHIA - Something is killing the nation's honeybees.

Dave Hackenberg had 3,000 hives and figures he has lost all but about 800 of them.

In labs across the nation, researchers have been stunned by the number of calls about the mysterious losses.

"Every day, you hear of another operator," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, acting state apiarist with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. "It's just causing so much death so quickly that it's startling."

At stake is the work the honeybees do, pollinating more than $15 billion worth of U.S. crops, including Pennsylvania's apple harvest, the fourth-largest in the nation, worth $45 million, and New Jersey's cranberries and blueberries.

While a few crops, such as corn and wheat, are pollinated by the wind, most need bees. Without these insects, crop yields would fall dramatically. Agronomists estimate Americans owe one in three bites of food to bees.


more at link

Also here:

LEWISBURG — One day last November, David Hackenberg, of Lewisburg, went out to check on some of his honey bees and found the 400 hives completely empty.

There was no sign of the bees, dead or alive. There was no sign that a predator had been there, and no other bugs had moved in.

Something was horribly wrong.

"They'd all vanished," he said, speaking on the phone from Florida, where he spends the winter so that his bees can pollinate fruit orchards all year-long. "This is unheard of."


PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:00 pm
by ninakat
Very disturbing. Thanks for posting this Jeff. The timing is amazing to me because just two days ago I decided to put a bee hive in my back yard to help pollinate my small grove of fruit trees, plus my vegetable garden. Now I'm wondering if the bees will survive.... but I'll move forward regardless.

I remember reading something not long ago about problems with the bee population in Japan, and how the government had sent out the Army to hand-pollinate crops. Sorry I don't have a link.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:11 pm
by chiggerbit
"They'd all vanished,"

Sounds like they swarmed, but for that many hives to do that all at the same time is unreal. And they should have been seen by someone somewhere else--a swarm of bees hanging from a limb is pretty obvious. Even the noise is obvious. I've heard that rubbing peach leaves, I think it is, inside a box is a good way to convince a wild swarm of bees to locate to your beehive. Hey, maybe someone has figured out a way to kidnap entire bee operations by seducing them to all swarm.

There had been a mite infestation that had killed off a huge proportion of bees a number of years ago. Bee keepers had to start medicating their hives to kill the mites. That's old history now. But something like 90% or so of wild honeybees died, from what I heard.

I've been wondering if these new farm chemicals and genetically modified crops are having an impact on bee populations.

Did you know that honey bees are not native to the Americas?

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:17 pm
by chiggerbit
ninacat, you may want to talk to your ag extension agent about how to medicate your hive's food. Here's a link on that mite:

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 3:21 pm
by darkbeforedawn
I believe --and this is just a hunch--that cell phone tower and microwave radiation etc. confuse and disorient bees, eventually disorganizing their hives and causing deaths. When the cell phone towers went up near our house the bee hives in the nieghborhood died. could be just coincidence though

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 3:55 pm
by marykmusic
I believe I've read that bees' sense of direction is dependent on electro-magnetics. This is indeed disrupted by cell phone and other types of towers. Homing pigeons are affected too.

Good call, DBD. --MaryK

honey bees

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 4:59 pm
by marmot
from what i know, honey bees depend mostly on the sun for their navigational sense of direction.

also, when bees swarm they usually do this in mid to late spring, and they do this to divide a hive which has become too large. the old queen takes half of the worker bees and the new queen remains with the other half in the hive. so swarming wouldn't leave the hives empty.

to account for missing bees, the most likely culprit would be animals like possom, racoon, or even bear. racoons scratch on the side of the hive and when the bees come out to investigate they hoard them into their callous mouths and then later suck the juicy entrails out. tell-tale signs are scratch marks on the hive box and piles of eviscerated bee shells laying on the ground. a family of racoons or possom or a single bear can eat off an entire apiary in the matter of weeks.

i remember the mite problem too. its still a huge problem. imagine this--a tiny killer bug inside another bug--the honeybee.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 6:02 pm
by PeterofLoneTree
Those they can't kill with bombs and bullets they will starve to death.

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:08 pm
by chiggerbit

regarding the empty hives

PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:28 pm
by marmot
From chiggerbit's link:
Although the bodies of dead bees often are littered around a hive, sometimes carried out of the hive by worker bees, no bee remains are typically found around colonies struck by the mystery ailment. Scientists assume these bees have flown away from the hive before dying.

Regarding the empty hives:

Bees dying of old age actually fly away and die away from the hive. If the bees sense they're dying then this assumption makes sense!

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 4:42 am
by wintler2
My favourite explanation is that bee's are jack of having their honey ripped off by the same bald chimps that paved paradise, and are taking their broods elsewhere.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 5:02 am
by philipacentaur
I believe I've read that bees' sense of direction is dependent on electro-magnetics. This is indeed disrupted by cell phone and other types of towers. Homing pigeons are affected too.

Bees do have the ability to use the geomagnetic fields of the Earth to navigate, but it's an ancillary system which is used in conjunction with their sensitivity to the polarization of light. Some birds (like homing pigeons) also have a similar "backup" system which is mainly used when the sky is overcast.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:33 pm
by ninakat
What perplexes me about this situation is that it's not a regional die-off, but national. Has anybody here seen anything that talks about how widespread this is, beyond the U.S.?

For this to be happening all across the country seems to indicate something has changed or been introduced suddenly, or within a very short period of time. It's not like the bees have been gradually dying off each year for awhile now. The article seems to indicate this is sudden, and it doesn't seem to be related to mites (at least, not as of this report, and again would that happen over such a huge area all at the same time?).

At this stage, with this limited report, it's very difficult to intuit with any rigor what's going on. Regardless, I'm very suspicious since this is so widespread. Anybody want to take a stab at plausible explanations -- scientific, conspiratorial, anything else?

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:35 pm
by ninakat
chiggerbit, thank you for the link to information about the mites -- I'll definitely be looking into that once I get my hive going.

PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 3:12 pm
by chiggerbit
ninakat, if you don't have your hive body, supers or other supplies yet and can't get them locally, there's a place near here that sells them:

Also, they also produce a great magazine called the American Bee Journal.

I love honeybees. Somehow life just feels ok if there are honeybees around. Not sure that this explains why, but when I was a little kid, my family was really poor, and not long after we rented this old house out in the country (with NO indoor plumbing, didn't know what that was at that time), a hive of bees moved into the walls of the upper story. I can remember the HUGE swarm as it dangled from a tree limb before it moved into the house with us. Needless to say, we didn't use the upstairs, so all of us kids, four of us eventually, shared one bedroom. I can remember one of the first excitements about late spring rolling around was being allowed to go barefoot, after which we only wore shoes when we went to school or town. Of course, that meant that every so often those bare feet accidentally stepped on a bee. Hated getting stung, but always felt sorry for the little bugger I had just forced to commit suicide. I was always an outdoor spirit, and bunches of bees were just a natural part of that outdoors.

Anyway, that's why these bee diseases/parasites get me down. They don't seem to have a chance.

Some interesting history here: