Bees in Sharp Decline in Europe

A flurry of news about bees in the U.S. made the news last year. Speculation flew, blaming colony collapse disorder, parasites, fungicides, pesticides, long distance truck hauling. Now it appears the Europe has long had bee problems which are also mounting in intensity.
According to Apimondia, The International Federation of Beekeeper Associations, Europe’s beekeeping industry could be wiped out in 8 to 10 years.

Last year, about 30 percent of Europe’s 13.6 million hives died, according to Apimondia figures. Losses reached 50 percent in Slovenia and as high as 80 percent in southwest Germany.

With 35 percent of European food crops relying on bees to pollinate them, it poses a big threat for farmers, said Ratia.

“It is a complete crisis,” said Francesco Panella, who tends about 1,000 hives in Piedmont, northern Italy. “Last year, I lost about half my production. I can’t survive more than 2 or 3 more years like this.

Most keepers blame powerful new pesticides along with a parasitic mite called Varroa.

Bees in Crisis

However, in recent news, scientists in Spain claim the culprit is a parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia), not the Varroa mite, and that they have treated sick colonies with an antibotic.

If so, that is very good news. If it simply permits more and more intensive industrialized farming, dependent on newer and better drugs that will not be so good.

Out of San Francisco is coming a citizen-scientist endeavor called the Great Sunflower project in which ordinary folks get a packet of sunflower seeds with the promise to keep a summer long census of the bees they attract. What a great way to sharpen our long atrophied connections to the natural world.

For a summary story, and introduction to a good site, see this at Planet Earth online, from the Natural Environment Research Council