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Beehive Problems Hitting Local Beekeepers

Marion Ackman sells a few tons of honey and beeswax every year.  He's kept bees on his Maineville farm for 51 years.

"I havent been stung since yesterday."

Today Ackman is feeling the sting beekeepers all over the world are feeling.  For the last several years, a mysterious ailment or combination of ailments has caused thousands of bee colonies to collapse. 

Locally, beekeepers lose between 40 and 50% of their colonies every winter.  A few years ago the number was closer to 10%.

"Down here behind the barn I had a bunch of bees back there and I lost 54 colonies in one winter.  Financially, thats kind of devastating for a beekeeper."

The problem is devastating the beekeeping community and baffling the scientific community.  Some blame systemic insecticides, known as neonics, that are often used on corn and soybean fields.  Others blame mites, viruses or cell phones.  Most say its a combination of all or some of the above.  The bottom line is no one knows whats killing the bees.

"Its still a mystery and its going to take a lot more research to come up with whats happening," says Boone County Agriculture Extension agent Jerry Brown. "Last year, according to our state apiarist, we lost somewhere between a third and half of all the colonies in the state."

Beekeepers are the first to feel the pain but that could spread.  By flitting from blossom to blossom, bees do the essential work of pollination.  Without their help, many plants-cucumbers, squash and pumpkins to name a few-would not produce fruit.  Albert Einstein theorized that humans would only survive four years without bees.  Marion Ackmans math is a bit more optimistic.

"If we keep losing bees worldwide at the rate were losing them now, in 10 years you lose 30% of your food supply for lack of pollination."

The European Union has banned the use of neonics.  Ackman says the United States needs to consider that and in the meantime ramp up research.  He can handle a few more bee stings.



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