More bees seem to be buzzing around our gardens this spring, which is a reassuring sign after the scarcity of bees and colony collapse worries last year. A number of readers have asked if bees are truly making a comeback.....
I sent your questions along to Sharon Coleman, who is an educator with Washington State University Extension Service, and the most knowledgeable person I know about all things bug-related. Here's Sharon's bee-centric answer:
"Bees seem to be doing well. If honey bees (photo, left) are spotted in the city then it is likely there is a beekeeper to thank that is nearby. Bumble bees (below, left) are fuzzy, variously colored with all golden bees, bumbles with yellow faces and reddish rumps, and some yellow and black striped. They are pretty gentle to work around if you don't annoy a nest. The shiny blue black bees are the orchard mason bees that live in holes made by beetles and more recently by humans so they will nest in their garden. There are also solitary nesting bees that nest in the ground or other places rather than communally. So many bees, so little time."
"Still no definite answers about CCD. I, and many researchers, believe it is a response to a variety of stresses and pathogens. With Varroa, tracheal mites, viruses, Nosema and keepers moving thousands of beehives around the States, I'm surprised the bees can survive at all. In addition, some of the miticides that are being used to control pests in the hives apparently build up in the brood comb wax and have been shown to shorten bees' lives and affect brood. Some of the newer insecticides used in agriculture are believed by some to add to the problem indirectly. "
Dave concludes with, "Perhaps the reason there seems to be an increase in bees and less CCD is that the weakest bloodlines have been eliminated and only the strong hives are reproducing? "
So no definite answers, but cautious optimism....and optimism on any environmental front is so welcome...
If you have more questions:
Sharon J. Collman