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Maine beekeepers losing 50% of their bees annually and getting worse

3492 Views 65 Replies 31 Participants Last post by  drummerboy
Are things really that bad for Maine beekeepers? The state apiarist reports that bees in Maine are unable to cluster after a warm spell and she has been feeding her bees for 9 months or more to keep them alive.

Climate change is killing off Maine's honey bees
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Below is a clip from an article pointing to a reduction in bees ability to thermoregulate due to varroa and accompanying viral disease. A rather long quote but the article it is from is not an easy read. Here is the link for the whole article if you wish.

There is lots more material supporting the certainty that Varro associated spin offs are the contributing factor in greatly increased mortality.

The interaction between a parasite and sub-optimal temperatures contributes to honey bee decline

This is likely due both to the reduced number of bees in mite infested colonies and to the reduced capacity of the surviving bees to thermoregulate, as demonstrated under laboratory conditions. A detailed laboratory investigation into the effects of the concurrent exposition of bees to a parasitic infection and sub-optimal temperatures, clearly showed that the negative effects of these two stressors add up to dramatically reduce the survival of bees. In particular, by recording the temperature of both mite infested and uninfested adult bees upon exposition to a low temperature, we noted that the first have a reduced capacity to warm up their bodies to counteract the lowering external temperature: a result that, to our knowledge, has not been reported before, despite the thermoregulatory capacity of bees has been investigated in considerable detail28,29.
Our results suggest that the flight muscles of parasitized bees are normally developed, whereas the sugar intake of mite infested bees is significantly affected; this suggests that mite infested bees suffer from a kind of mite induced anorexia. A great deal of research has been dedicated to the effect of mite infestation on individual bees; however, so far30,31, apart from some early studies on wing development32 and some recent results regarding the fat body beneath the feeding hole33, little is known about the anatomy of honey bees as affected by mite parasitization. Here we suggest that, at least as far as the thorax muscles are concerned, the internal anatomy of infested bee is not impaired. On the other hand, the mite induced anorexia we report here parallels other cases of disease induced anorexia already observed in insects, and in particular, the reduced feeding of caterpillar larvae infected by nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV)34. Furthermore, we observed that the lower temperature inside the hive could affect also the developmental time and the survival of emerging adult bees.
In conclusion, it appears that mite infestation further than increasing per se the mortality of bees, reduces the capacity of bees to thermoregulate, exposing them to the detrimental effect of lower temperatures. In addition, the reduction in the number of bees engaged in thermoregulation together with their reduced efficiency, in turn can affect the developing bees further aggravating the phenomenon. In sum, a number of dangerous positive feed-back loops are generated, with devastating effects on the survival of the colony, clearly revealed by our field results. Therefore, it appears that the decreasing temperature observed during the cold season can enhance the negative effect of the increasing mite infestation, further reducing the survival of bees and thus impairing the very sustainability of the colony.
 

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If they are feeding for 9 months or more, right there tells me there is something wrong, or at least in my neck of the woods it would be.

Are these packages that are being fed that long? I could sort of understand that, but at some point when blooms are at their peak they will stop taking feed.

Are these hives coming out of winter? If so sounds like if they made a crop of honey they were not left enough stores to make it out of spring before the bloom.

Unable to cluster sounds really more like they have started to brood up on a warm spell and then the cold moved in and they refused to walk off of the brood to cluster again. They will stand on brood trying to keep it warm and freeze to death all spread out. They are trying to do what they think is best for the hive by keeping the brood alive. These are winter bees and are getting to the end of their life span, just my opinion but I think they realize this too.
 

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1st off.... it says UP TO 50%,
Who are they getting the numbers from... all the Newbies that kill off their hives the first year ?... Because they take ALL the honey that first year because they are not smart enough to Learn before getting bees???? There was a lot of 'used one year' equipment in 2021 and 2022 all from people that think one lesson makes them a beekeeper
:mad:
 

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Arnie's Quick and Easy Study Guide

Question number 1:
My bees were looking great in September/October, Lotsa bees, packed with honey. Now they're all dead. What happened?
Answer: Varroa mites.

All other questions:
Answer: Climate change.

Easy Peasy.
More like... you took all the honey thinking they had too much
 

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Below is a clip from an article pointing to a reduction in bees ability to thermoregulate due to varroa and accompanying viral disease. A rather long quote but the article it is from is not an easy read. Here is the link for the whole article if you wish.

There is lots more material supporting the certainty that Varro associated spin offs are the contributing factor in greatly increased mortality.

The interaction between a parasite and sub-optimal temperatures contributes to honey bee decline

This is likely due both to the reduced number of bees in mite infested colonies and to the reduced capacity of the surviving bees to thermoregulate, as demonstrated under laboratory conditions. A detailed laboratory investigation into the effects of the concurrent exposition of bees to a parasitic infection and sub-optimal temperatures, clearly showed that the negative effects of these two stressors add up to dramatically reduce the survival of bees. In particular, by recording the temperature of both mite infested and uninfested adult bees upon exposition to a low temperature, we noted that the first have a reduced capacity to warm up their bodies to counteract the lowering external temperature: a result that, to our knowledge, has not been reported before, despite the thermoregulatory capacity of bees has been investigated in considerable detail28,29.
Our results suggest that the flight muscles of parasitized bees are normally developed, whereas the sugar intake of mite infested bees is significantly affected; this suggests that mite infested bees suffer from a kind of mite induced anorexia. A great deal of research has been dedicated to the effect of mite infestation on individual bees; however, so far30,31, apart from some early studies on wing development32 and some recent results regarding the fat body beneath the feeding hole33, little is known about the anatomy of honey bees as affected by mite parasitization. Here we suggest that, at least as far as the thorax muscles are concerned, the internal anatomy of infested bee is not impaired. On the other hand, the mite induced anorexia we report here parallels other cases of disease induced anorexia already observed in insects, and in particular, the reduced feeding of caterpillar larvae infected by nucleopolyhedrovirus (NPV)34. Furthermore, we observed that the lower temperature inside the hive could affect also the developmental time and the survival of emerging adult bees.
In conclusion, it appears that mite infestation further than increasing per se the mortality of bees, reduces the capacity of bees to thermoregulate, exposing them to the detrimental effect of lower temperatures. In addition, the reduction in the number of bees engaged in thermoregulation together with their reduced efficiency, in turn can affect the developing bees further aggravating the phenomenon. In sum, a number of dangerous positive feed-back loops are generated, with devastating effects on the survival of the colony, clearly revealed by our field results. Therefore, it appears that the decreasing temperature observed during the cold season can enhance the negative effect of the increasing mite infestation, further reducing the survival of bees and thus impairing the very sustainability of the colony.
These mites are a plague like no other so far, here is more proof of it.

I'd have to think that management by current conditions presented during the season (instead of by "calendar") would go a long way to reducing the losses discussed in the article by a measurable amount.
 

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she has been feeding her bees for 9 months or more to keep them alive.
Not worth the trouble.

The US beekeepers need to review basic idea of localization - before going any further (before even looking at the mites).
Simply buying any bees from anywhere, anytime, for no rhyme or reason gets you this "Maine syndrome".
 

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Jennifer Lund
is the State Apiarist with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. She received her Master’s degree in Entomology from the University of Maine and has over 20 years of entomological experience. Aside from managing the honeybee inspection program and helping Maine beekeepers, Jennifer has several of her own hives she maintains on her farm in Argyle Township, Maine.
 

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Two things.
Ms Lund says that some beekeepers have taken too much honey, leaving the hives light.
That's beekeeper error not climate change.

Second, she says the bees can't re-cluster quickly enough after a warm spell which leads to them dying.
In my experience the bees are remarkably efficient at getting themselves back into cluster mode.
Every year we have wild temperature swings here.
Often the bees are brooding up when the temperature will drop overnight from 65 to 20 and we'll get a snowstorm.
The bees deal with it.
This winter the temp went from 50 degrees to minus 14 overnight with an astonishing drop from 50 to 6 in about 15 minutes.
The bees were fine with it.

Something isn't right with this story.
 

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"......beekeepers in the state have reported losing up to 50 percent of their bees ....."
Polls and surveys are among THE LEAST scientific, of data collection.
Personally, I assign very little value to either.
Also, when my bees die, I see no need to make up sensational, mysterious sounding excuses.
But then, I make my money with bees NOT the latest fad.
When my bees die, I assume beekeeper error.
Was that snarky enough?
:censored:
 

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Clyde, I see the reasons for your post. I don't see the reason for your tone. And I don't see how it added to the discussion about Maine beekeepers' colony losses (which presumably was little bear's (possibly rhetorical) point). And it seems the mods did not either. I often appreciate what you have to say about bees and beekeeping. If you disagree with Greg's statements then give a substantive alternative statement. This both gives the reader an alternative view from an experienced beekeeper and keeps the disagreements in the discussion civil. Do give it a try. I know there are many, myself included, and maybe us all, who can learn from your beekeeping knowledge and practices. After all, that's what a forum is for.
I would add that I am skeptical that climate change is killing colonies in winter. Unless there is some freak storm that sweeps them down river or some desertification that dries up all the nectar I think the bee apocalypse is not yet upon us. There is almost always something we can do to increase their odds of surviving. The question is are we willing to go to those lengths and is the return worth the investment. Sometimes there are some things we cannot figure out but to be successful we will need to look to our own systems of management and make improvements as best we can. Bees lived on a ship for several weeks / a few months to get to this country, they can stand a good bit of unexpected upheaval. That people are losing colonies I do not doubt. That the causes are entirely out of the beekeeper's control I do doubt. Some loss may be inevitable, but 50% is not necessary. Unless you are going for hard bond or lazy beekeeping, in which case I think you would not be complaining about the losses as that's part of it (returns are worth the investment....).
 

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Clyde, I see the reasons for your post. I don't see the reason for your tone. And I don't see how it added to the discussion about Maine beekeepers' colony losses (which presumably was little bear's (possibly rhetorical) point). And it seems the mods did not either. I often appreciate what you have to say about bees and beekeeping. If you disagree with Greg's statements then give a substantive alternative statement. This both gives the reader an alternative view from an experienced beekeeper and keeps the disagreements in the discussion civil. Do give it a try. I know there are many, myself included, and maybe us all, who can learn from your beekeeping knowledge and practices. After all, that's what a forum is for.
I would add that I am skeptical that climate change is killing colonies in winter. Unless there is some freak storm that sweeps them down river or some desertification that dries up all the nectar I think the bee apocalypse is not yet upon us. There is almost always something we can do to increase their odds of surviving. The question is are we willing to go to those lengths and is the return worth the investment. Sometimes there are some things we cannot figure out but to be successful we will need to look to our own systems of management and make improvements as best we can. Bees lived on a ship for several weeks / a few months to get to this country, they can stand a good bit of unexpected upheaval. That people are losing colonies I do not doubt. That the causes are entirely out of the beekeeper's control I do doubt. Some loss may be inevitable, but 50% is not necessary. Unless you are going for hard bond or lazy beekeeping, in which case I think you would not be complaining about the losses as that's part of it (returns are worth the investment....).
You're right, how inconsiderate of me to draw attention in that manner to such a minor issue.
 

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Arnie's Quick and Easy Study Guide

Question number 1:
My bees were looking great in September/October, Lotsa bees, packed with honey. Now they're all dead. What happened?
Answer: Varroa mites.

All other questions:
Answer: Climate change.

Easy Peasy.
I'm happy to see I am not the only one had this same kind of reaction to this article. I saw the headline a couple days ago and couldn't even bring myself to click the link.
 

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You're right, how inconsiderate of me to draw attention in that manner to such a minor issue.
Clyde: thank you for not turning a blind eye to language that, oftentimes, comes across as pure hostility. Maybe not this exact time, but there have been others that myself and Plantman et al, for example, have called out. For you, possibly, this was the straw that broke the poor camel.

It amazes me that the “mods” don’t address this issue…at all, it seems. Respectful feedback should be encouraged, even brutal honesty~that’s how a beneficial discourse provides insight and alternatives.

The above aside, this is an interesting topic with varying views. I don’t have experience bringing bees through a Maine winter. We did experience 4 whole days in south Tn well below freezing, which was harrowing. However, as Amibusiness and others do, so eloquently, state, bees innately know how to cluster when it turns cold and they know to bring food down around the brood nest in order to withstand these cold snaps.

When beekeepers lose bees over winter, as Arni states, it’s always due to Varroa Mite damage (with their vectored-viruses) or the absence of their management; using whatever means one should choose~whether it’s purchasing (breeding) VSH bees, brood breaks (including swarming), drone culling, organic acids or chemicals, to name a few (or a combination of these tools).
 

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brutal honesty is in the eye of the beholder.
GG
I love brutal honesty but many see it as rude. If you get your panties in a twist anytime someone says something you don't like then 'you' (general you) think it's rude. Those that know what is going on call it brutal honesty and I think it needs to be done more often.

Brutal honesty to this article, from real beeks and not new beeks, is that it's not really true and without seeing how it was conducted shows that it's a farce.
I'm not saying anything about the State Apiarist... although I am going to venture to guess that many skilled Beeks don't involve the State Apiarist much. Shoot, I'm still waiting for a reply from the 3 emails I sent to mine..
Brutal honesty to new beeks... LEARN before you BUY. Don't get involved with "polls" on how many died over winter because the truth is YOU killed them.
 
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