In today’s unlikely Op-Ed article in the New York Times: Are Bees Back up on their Knees? beekeeper Noah Wilson-Rich makes the case that the worst of the mysterious colony collapse syndrome may be over. He reviews what many of us have been saying for a long time – this isn’t the first time bees ‘disappeared’ from their hives. This fact does not reduce the seriousness of the current malady nor does it mitigate the expensive – sometimes bankrupting – losses many beekeepers suffered in the past few years.
However, Noah reminds us that unexplained colony’collapses occurred in “the years 950, 992 and 1443, when Ireland’s beekeepers noted remarkably high mortality events. Reports from the Cache Valley in Utah in 1903 described thousands of dead hives; around the same time, the Isle of Wight in England faced a near total loss of honeybees.” My father told me similar stories of almost totally empty hives a couple of seasons in the 1950s in Pennsylvania and New York. Anyway, the New York Times piece is an interesting read and gives a little balance to today’s situation. As the editorial points out, all is not well and rosy, but neither is it all dire and death. The writer makes valid points about the difficulty commercial beekeepers face in a world of diseases, chemicals, and habitat loss.