This Leah Sottile WaPo piece is excellent in many ways. Here are a few bits:
Bees are still dying at unacceptable rates…Ohio State University’s Honey Bee Update noted that losses among the state’s beekeepers over the past winter were as high as 80 percent.
…Researchers say innovative beekeepers will be critical to helping bees bounce back.
“People ask me, ‘The bees are going to be extinct soon?’ ” said Ramesh Sagili, principal investigator at the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab. “I’m not worried about bees being extinct here. I’m worried about beekeepers being extinct.”
Commercial beekeepers are leaving the sector and innovative bee hobbyists are taking on a much larger role:
“I feel a social responsibility to provide good bees,” Prescott said. “It makes me happy to look at the part that I’m playing.”
…Obsessing over bee health was unheard of 50 years ago, said Marla Spivak, a University of Minnesota professor of entomology. “In the past, it was very easy to keep bees. Throw them in a box, and they make honey and survive. Now, it takes lots of management.”
The story has some excellent examples:
Henry Storch, 32, does it because he felt a calling to beekeeping. A farrier by trade, Storch said he could make more money shoeing horses. But five years ago, he became obsessed with the notion that he could build a better bee…He barely flinched as a bee stung him on the upper lip.
…Storch’s mountain-bred “survivor” bees are like open-range cows: tough, hardened and less in need of close management than the bees he trucks to the California almond fields. Storch compares the effort to growing organic, non-GMO food.
The good news is this:
Amid the die-off, beekeepers have been going to extraordinary lengths to save both their bees and their livelihoods.
That effort may finally be paying off. New data from the Agriculture Department show the number of managed honeybee colonies is on the rise, climbing to 2.7 million nationally in 2014, the highest in 20 years.
Recommended. To trace the longer story, here are previous MR posts on bees.