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From Dr. Mark Winston at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, BC, Canada:

http://tinyurl.com/pfgbqev

His research showed that yields of canola (and profits) were increased when there was a deliberate (large-- ~1/3) portion of farmland that was not cropland--but left fallow. The differences in dollars per farm: $27,000 vs. $65,000. His conclusion: healthier bee (native and managed alike) populations resulted in better pollination of the money crop. Worth a read.
 

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Any article which starts with " — AROUND the world, honeybee colonies are dying in huge numbers: About one-third of hives collapse each year, a pattern going back a decade" is incorrect.

BS.
Untrue..
 

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I wrote something about this NYTimes op-ed for a different forum (a local group of beekeepers):

The article covers important topics, but it's badly written and I think the underlying argument is confused. The title and blurb suggest that honeybees are facing their demise, and their colonies are collapsing. But "colony collapse disorder" was a relatively brief phenomenon. As soon as it was identified and its characteristics described, it disappeared.

The problem, in a sense, is that beekeepers have figured out how to keep their colonies going, with nucs on the side and replacing queens as needed. Honeybees aren't facing extinction any time soon, and that kind of talk blurs and mixes up the deeper issues that are real and seriously threaten our species more clearly than apis mellifera.

Winston writes: "Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message..."

I'm curious to see the forthcoming book, Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive, but I'm thinking anyone who wants to track his lines of reasoning will have a hard time, if his NYTimes essay is anything to go by.​

Someone else in that group mentioned that "Mark Winston for many years was a columnist for Bee Culture magazine but more importantly has been a researcher in this field for many years."

His NYTimes essay covers, and mixes together:

  • honeybee colonies dying in huge numbers, about one-third of hives each year
  • increasingly severe environmental perturbations that challenge modern society
  • death by a thousand little cuts -
    1. pesticides applied to fields, as well as pesticides applied directly into hives to control mites
    2. fungal, bacterial and viral pests and diseases
    3. nutritional deficiencies caused by vast acreages of single-crop fields
    4. and, in the United States, commercial beekeeping itself
  • a toxic soup of chemicals whose interplay can substantially reduce the effectiveness of bees’ immune systems
  • pharmaceutical interactions in humans, with many prescription drugs showing harmful or fatal side effects when used together
  • exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals which may affect human health
  • thousands of wild bee species that
    1. could offer some of the pollination service needed for agriculture
    2. are threatened by factors similar to those afflicting honeybees
Personally, I think all these issues are important, but the interactions are more subtle than Winston allows for in his writing. Too bad.
 

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I think that too many authors on the issue are forgetting to describe the rapid decline in queen longevity from years to around six months according to the USDA's ARS.

That six month average life expectancy for Honeybee queens is a number that does indicate that they are, in fact, in decline and are getting closer to 'demise'.

We shouldn't let articles that may or may not be well written misdirect our attention.
 

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... six month average life expectancy for Honeybee queens ...
:scratch: Okay, I haven't been reading all the threads here. Are we talking "average" as in, some queens don't ever lay well (so effectively are dead from the start), others are superseded within weeks, others last only a year before the beekeeper replaces them, and a few are "allowed" to live 2 or 3 years or longer?
 

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I would have said ask Jeff Pettis at the ARS till there was a change.

I don't know how they determined that average.

The drone sperm viability is one major issue involved though.
 

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We shouldn't let articles that may or may not be well written misdirect our attention.
Yes, that's getting to be a problem, with all sorts of writers jumping on the band-wagon writing about things they only half-understand. I don't know much about Mark Winston, but the credentials mentioned (Bee Culture, years as a researcher) ought to put him a notch above the rest.

My own pet peeve -- there's not enough good, well-informed editors. Either Mark Winston piled all his topics into that one essay or, even worse, that's his Preface or Chapter 1. And his editor didn't know enough to get it into better focus. Not to mention, fact checkers.

One line caught my attention: "Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us..." It fudges the difference between the death of individual bees and the extinction of the species. His point in the whole paragraph is obviously at the species level. But by not calling them "the honeybees," he and his editor can say it's true that honeybees are dying. Yes, and ...

Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds.​

He's playing to his audience, who love the thrill of stories about "the" honeybees. Then he drops the "the" so technically it's true.
 

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Talk about a 6 month average life span of queens is silliness.....but it is certainly shorter than it was a decade ago. I doubt that I have ever lost more than 10% in the first 6 months. Lots of evidence that high amitraz concentrations are suspect number one.
 

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:scratch: Okay, I haven't been reading all the threads here. Are we talking "average" as in, some queens don't ever lay well (so effectively are dead from the start), others are superseded within weeks, others last only a year before the beekeeper replaces them, and a few are "allowed" to live 2 or 3 years or longer?
What about the ones that die after I get them but before they get into a hive. How are they accounted for? Or the ones that die in the mail/UPSC, do they figure into the queenloss?
 

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Yes, that's getting to be a problem, with all sorts of writers jumping on the band-wagon writing about things they only half-understand. I don't know much about Mark Winston, but the credentials mentioned (Bee Culture, years as a researcher) ought to put him a notch above the rest.

My own pet peeve -- there's not enough good, well-informed editors. Either Mark Winston piled all his topics into that one essay or, even worse, that's his Preface or Chapter 1. And his editor didn't know enough to get it into better focus. Not to mention, fact checkers.

One line caught my attention: "Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us..." It fudges the difference between the death of individual bees and the extinction of the species. His point in the whole paragraph is obviously at the species level. But by not calling them "the honeybees," he and his editor can say it's true that honeybees are dying. Yes, and ...
Observing the tumultuous demise of honeybees should alert us that our own well-being might be similarly threatened. The honeybee is a remarkably resilient species that has thrived for 40 million years, and the widespread collapse of so many colonies presents a clear message: We must demand that our regulatory authorities require studies on how exposure to low dosages of combined chemicals may affect human health before approving compounds.​

He's playing to his audience, who love the thrill of stories about "the" honeybees. Then he drops the "the" so technically it's true.
I'm not suggesting anything underhanded or nefarious, but what is really being sold by Op/Eds like these and books like the one last week on NPR's "Fresh Air"? Fear seems to me to be the prime product. That and books and newspapers.

What are these people doing today?
 

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Talk about a 6 month average life span of queens is silliness.....but it is certainly shorter than it was a decade ago. I doubt that I have ever lost more than 10% in the first 6 months. Lots of evidence that high amitraz concentrations are suspect number one.
It's mites not neonics.

Before mites got to my country ( year 2000 ) pretty much every queen was good for 2 years, that was the expected useful life. Most of them if not requeened would be superseded by the bees in the third year.

Now, 2 years is still common but I'd guess probably 1/2 of them are superseded prior to that, some after just a few months. It's not neonics because large areas here where bees are kept are bush etc with no chemicals used at all, but queen supersedure rates are identical in these areas to other areas where maize and other crops using neonics are grown. What is even more convincing evidence is it took the mites 12 years to get from one end of the country to the other, and as they advanced, early supersedure went with them.

In my mind there is strong evidence early supersedure is not caused by neonics, it is caused by mites and associated infections.

Also, last season I went through a bad patch of queen cell failure, the cells looked fine but some did not hatch & mating % was bad. I sent some samples to a lab, and queen larvae and nurse bees from the suspect hives had very high levels of DWV, even though it was not obvious by looking at the hives. So DWV can start weakening queens even before they have hatched from the cell.
 

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It's mites not neonics.

Before mites got to my country ( year 2000 ) pretty much every queen was good for 2 years, that was the expected useful life. Most of them if not requeened would be superseded by the bees in the third year.

Now, 2 years is still common but I'd guess probably 1/2 of them are superseded prior to that, some after just a few months. It's not neonics because large areas here where bees are kept are bush etc with no chemicals used at all, but queen supersedure rates are identical in these areas to other areas where maize and other crops using neonics are grown. What is even more convincing evidence is it took the mites 12 years to get from one end of the country to the other, and as they advanced, early supersedure went with them.

In my mind there is strong evidence early supersedure is not caused by neonics, it is caused by mites and associated infections.

Also, last season I went through a bad patch of queen cell failure, the cells looked fine but some did not hatch & mating % was bad. I sent some samples to a lab, and queen larvae and nurse bees from the suspect hives had very high levels of DWV, even though it was not obvious by looking at the hives. So DWV can start weakening queens even before they have hatched from the cell.
On reflection, I think you are most likely right on the mark here. It's the only thing that really fits the facts. While it's true there is some pretty compelling evidence that Amitraz can cause some drone fertility problems it doesn't explain why folks that have never used Amitraz still see reduced queen longevity. This year is shaping up to be another typical year for us, about 5% of our queens have failed in the first 4 months, it's a pretty good bet that there will be another 5 to 10% failure in the next 4 months.
 

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Yes the mite treatments cause problems also for drones and queens. Between mites & their diseases, and treatments for mites, it's a double whammy. Probably less so for the types of treatments you are using Jim.
 

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It's mites not neonics.

Before mites got to my country ( year 2000 ) pretty much every queen was good for 2 years, that was the expected useful life. Most of them if not requeened would be superseded by the bees in the third year.

Now, 2 years is still common but I'd guess probably 1/2 of them are superseded prior to that, some after just a few months. It's not neonics because large areas here where bees are kept are bush etc with no chemicals used at all, but queen supersedure rates are identical in these areas to other areas where maize and other crops using neonics are grown. What is even more convincing evidence is it took the mites 12 years to get from one end of the country to the other, and as they advanced, early supersedure went with them.

In my mind there is strong evidence early supersedure is not caused by neonics, it is caused by mites and associated infections.

Also, last season I went through a bad patch of queen cell failure, the cells looked fine but some did not hatch & mating % was bad. I sent some samples to a lab, and queen larvae and nurse bees from the suspect hives had very high levels of DWV, even though it was not obvious by looking at the hives. So DWV can start weakening queens even before they have hatched from the cell.
Oldtimer it's nice to read a post from someone like you with real world experience instead of some "studies" from people that are only doing the studies because they received funding from the taxpayers.
 
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