A Bee Mogul Confronts the Crisis in His Field - Beekeeping on an industrial scale is central to American agriculture, and “colony collapse” has proved to be a severe test. A New York Times article by Stephanic Strom, February 16, 2017. There would be no almond crop — not to mention avocados, apples, cherries and alfalfa — without honeybees. Of the 100 crops that account for 90 percent of the food eaten around the globe, 71 rely on bee pollination, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. This is pollination season for America’s almond trees. As a result, in recent weeks almost two-thirds of the country’s commercial bees have started buzzing through California’s orchards. Some of the bees have been shipped in from as far away as Florida. Adee Honey Farms has some 92,000 hives, each with roughly 40,000 bees, about 3.5 billion bees in total. Most spend the winter here in hives scattered across a 3,000-acre cattle ranch surrounded by low hills with easy access to water, a necessity for such a concentrated population.

During pollination season, the bees are loaded onto a dozen flatbed trucks and nine or 10 tractor-trailers and ferried to work, starting first in the almond orchards in late January, then moving to other California crops like broccoli and avocados. About 10 percent of the Adee bees are dispatched to Oregon and Washington State, where they pollinate cherry and apple trees. They work until early May, when the trucks take them to the Midwest for the summer.

The bee shortage has to do with the overall health of bees, and not one or two specific things. Bees are exposed to a variety of pesticides, all of which can affect their immune systems, he said. That in turn makes them less resistant to diseases and parasites carried by the varroa mite and enables the spread of viruses; partly because a poorly understood plague, known as colony collapse, has decimated the nation’s bee population in the last decade. The cause is widely debated: Some cite climate change affecting habitat, others the proliferation of certain pesticides, but most believe the problem has multiple factors. Whatever the reason, in the year that ended in April 2016, 44 percent of the overall commercial bee population died. In a typical year before the plague, only 10 percent to 15 percent would have died, and Mr. Adee’s losses would have been between 3 and 7 percent. Bumblebees also affected.

Hives look like small white dots on ranchland outside Bakersfield, Calif. Demand for pollination services has increased as a mysterious plague known as colony collapse has decimated the nation’s bee population over the last decade. Beekeeper mogul keeps bees as far away as possible from pesticides. Credit: Kendrick Brinson for New York Times

PROJECT - SOLITARY BEE HOTEL The University of Florida is requesting the help of amateur backyard scientists to track and record solitary bees. See how to make a solitary bee hotel. Solitary bees are excellent pollinators, but they can struggle to find nesting sites. A homemade nest looks attractive and provides them with a home, as well as ensuring bumper harvests. Cut Lengths of Bamboo: Use sharp clippers to cut short lengths of bamboo canes that will fit into your pot. The natural variation in diameter will attract different bee species. Push Them Into a Pot: Fill the base of a terra-cotta pot with modeling clay, or putty or even glue them in and push the cut bamboo canes firmly into it. Continue doing this until the pot is packed tightly. Hang Your Hotel: Tie raffia or string firmly around the pot and suspend it from a hook or attach it to a wall. Choose a sheltered, sunny site, and angle the open end of the pot downward so that the bamboo canes do not fill up with water when it rains

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