Monday, July 6, 2020

A Very Odd Spring for Honeybees

We've been using and selling Monastery Creamed Honey from the monks of Holy Cross Abbey, Berryville, Virginia since we went online in 2005. Sadly, over the past 15 years, colonies of bees have been disappearing, and the reason remains unknown. Referred to as ‘colony collapse disorder’, billions of Honey Bees across the world are leaving their hives, never to return. In some regions, up to 90% of bees have disappeared!
Monastery Creamed Honey

This spring there has seen an uptick in the number of swarms - big groups of bees leaving a hive to look for a new home base. This happens when bees feel overcrowded in their hive. It means the colony is robust and healthy. Beekeepers must manage the issue or they can lose bees and the honey in the bees.

It is possible the explanation lies in the weather patterns this spring. Warm temperatures in the first three months of 2020 meant some things bloomed early. Then the weather cooled and later blooms slowed down. The bees were very busy reproducing and gathering pollen and nectar and hive may have gotten crowded. Bee keepers try to capture the swarming bees by gently brushing the bees into a box. A swam is pretty docile and full of honey. The key is to capture the queen in the box and the bees will follow.

The bees are much safer with a beekeeper than in the wild. The murder hornets have the ability to wipe out hives. A more serious problem is the Varroa mite, a parasite that fees on adult bees and larvae, making them vulnerable to certain viral diseases. Then there are pesticides that can be carried back to the hive. People and honeybees need each other. They pollinate our food crops, and beekeepers safeguard their colonies.