Every time someone new finds out I keep bees, the conversation invariably comes around to colony collapse disorder -- something like this.
me: "I've been keeping bees for a few years now. It's a fascinating hobby, and if it all goes ok, you get honey, lots of honey."
them: "That's cool. I heard something on the news about the bees dying. What's up with that?"
So what really is up with the bees? Well, no one knows for sure yet, but right now the thinking seems to be that it's not one single thing. It's a combination of a nasty parasite called Varroa, poisons that kill bees and build up in the honeycomb, and imported viruses and fungi. The bees just maybe are getting hit with so much at once that they don't have time to recover. There is also some people who believe that global warming is also having an effect on our bees. The bottom line is that some people have lost almost all of their bees in a single year. Fortunately, it hasn't happened to me yet.
(Apparently it's not just honeybees, bumblebees are getting hit with bad stuff, too http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/01/110104-bumblebees-bees-decline-fungus-mystery-science-animals/)
So what's to be done. There's a lot that beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike can do. Beekeepers can keep up with research and learn the latest techniques for keeping their hives healthy. Some beekeepers are even working to breed new strains of honeybees that resist the nasty parasites.
If you don't keep bees here's how you can help.
First, buy local honey from a beekeper you know. Cheap honey from overseas is one way that diseases can sneak into our country. When you buy from local beekeepers, you help stop the import of junk honey from other countries.
Second, buy organic where you can. There is some evidence that pesticides may be harming the bees. Buying organic helps encourage farmers not to use pesticides.
Third, plant an array of flowers that bloom throughout the year, or at least the whole summer. And don't use any pesticides on them.
Finally, don't be afraid of honeybees, they are usually pretty gentle unless you're disturbing their hive.
If you're looking for honey in the greater Bennington area, post a comment and we'll help you find some.