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1) What are your credentials, background, and experience related to beekeeping?
I've been a hobby beekeeper since around 1990, so I don't have any beekeeping experience prior to the varroa mite in beehives. I've always been interested in the biology of the bees and the beehives as a super organism, and never researched much into the pests of bees. I've always caught bee swarms each spring to replace my losses occurred over winter, which were sometimes quite high. Today I finally did some research on the varroa mite life cycle with a beehive, and am now understanding the formidable enemy of bees that the varroa destructor mite is.

2) How many colonies of honeybees do you have and how many years have you had them?
The highest number of hives I've ever kept through a season was 24, and at the moment I have zero hives, as the 8 I had in last fall have all died out over winter. These last three years I've been trying to be completely treatment free in beekeeping, but it is not working here in my location with my local strains of bees.

3) Have you experienced abnormally high losses over the last 8 years?
So yes, I have experienced high losses of beehives over the last 8 years, ranging from 30% to 100% losses.

4) What problems do you attribute losses to?
I do think the beehives have gotten harder to keep from around the winter of 2005/2006. I think it has gotten harder, even with varroa, because of changes in agriculture practices such as larger monoculture crops and weed spraying (weeds provide variety of flower for the bees) and mosquito spraying aerially using pyrethroids. Pyrethroids were used as some of the first miticide control back when I first started beekeeping, and it accumulates in the beeswax combs of the hives. Now I no longer use it, but it is sprayed in the environment for mosquito control, so wax still gets contaminates built up in it.

5) Have you been affected by CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) and if so, what do you think the leading cause of CCD is?
I think CCD is a term that describes symptoms of hive collapse, and describes conditions found as a hive collapses. I do not think it is a disease as such. I think it is a political tool used for money for big operations and research and for higher costs and taxes related to keeping bees, and is used to help sway public emotions. Using it in statements that insinuate that we are going to lose all of our foods or most of our foods could very well be being used to get more people to start up beekeeping to help keep the industry going. Most larger beekeepers are getting up in years and we are getting fewer people keeping bees to replace the old timers as they retire. I'm sure there are other reasons for creating the term or label of CCD, but I do not believe it is a disease by itself.

6) How have you personally been affected by CCD (Financial, Emotional, Educational, No Affect, etc.)?
I have had hives collapse with symptoms of CCD. I think it is more caused by varroa mites and the virus's they carry, along with the malnutrition they cause, than any other single thing. As stated above, I do believe there are other sub issues that contribute to the problem. I have suffered losses that causes financial expense of purchasing more bees each year. It also causes financial expenditures of treatments for the bees, mostly for varroa mite infestations. Emotionally, is that putting treatments in beehives to keep them alive just takes a lot of the fun out of beekeeping. It is emotionally stressful to me.

7) What major challenges should we be addressing that cause colony losses?
I think it would be nice if we had more small individual farmings instead of the overly large corporate mono-culture we have now. I think we should stop spraying out all the weeds and other wild flowers, and I think it would be nice if we could go back to combating mosquitoes with ground spot spraying and using mosquito fish in waterways instead of blanket spraying of pyrethroids and other compounds by air plane across entire counties and states.

8) What should we be doing to reduce problems with CCD?
Same as question 7 above.
I think we should be using miticides that do not build up in the hives and so leave no trace of their ever being there. I think we should be encouraging beekeepers to continue with IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices that help reduce the destruction of varroa mites on beehives, and I think we need to keep more focus on the nutrition needed for healthy bees in the hives. If we keep hives in locations that do not have varied forage areas for the hives then we must supplement the feed for them.

9) CCD isn’t just about bees, have you seen it impacting the economy, if so, how?
Yes, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and other produce have gone up in price partly because it costs more now to keep bees alive, and it also costs more to purchase bees to replace losses. Part of the price paid for replacement bees is also because of the incredible demand for bees from new beekeepers that are now coming online with this as a new hobby or career, because of the news of bees dieing and us having to pay more for variety of pollinated foods. It is becoming somewhat of a circle.

10) If things keep going as they are, what does the future of the honeybee look like?
We still have been able to maintain beehive numbers pretty well. I don't see the industry going away. If anything, with the increased demand from new beekeepers coming in from all the bad news, I expect the industry to grow, actually.

Please keep in mind that a lot of what I've written is just opinion from me, not fact but speculation and theory.
 
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