In the last fifty years, the honey bee population has decreased by 50%!
In the early 70's we noticed a decrease in the number of feral (wild) colonies.
Now, according to the USDA they are almost completely absent!
Mainly because honey bees are the main pollinators for 30% of the food that we eat! Every third bite that you tonight at your dinner table is made available by the work of these creatures!
In 1996, France counted 1.45 million hives...in 2003, 1 million
In the winter of '08, the U.S. estimates that 36% of our 2.4 million hives were lost to "honey bee depopulation syndrome" (HBDS...another term for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)). This is over 11% more than in 2007, and over 40% more than in 2006! In 2010 and 2011, bee keepers lost 30% of their colonies.
It is normal to have winter losses somewhere between 15-20%, but over the last three years, we have seen significantly more than what is normal.
This is not the first time in the US that these important insects have dwindled, it's just that it is the most severe!
In 1896 (US), we have record of colony losses that were more than normal winter losses. Over the years, bee keepers have referred to this phenomenon as "disappearing disease", "spring dwindle", "May disease", "autumn collapse" and "fall dwindle disease". In Britain, they refer to it as "Mary Celeste Phenomenon", referencing an incident in 1872 where a whole crew (of sailors) disappeared.
The bottom line is that our honey bees are in danger and it is high time we figured out what ails them. Failure to learn from our mistakes could cost us 30% of our food supply!
Bee removals are extremely rewarding.
Not only is the beekeeper providing a service to the resident, but he/she is also saving bees and building up their apiary. An added benefit is the genetic diversity gained through the introduction of potential feral colonies.
Here are some of my recent adventures...