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texassourdough 03-26-2010 07:12 AM

Missing Bees???
 
For those of you in colder climes, the Texas hill country is in major spring mode. Peaches finished blooming last week, mountain laurels are going crazy. Lots of flowers and, normally, lots of bees.

As many of you probably know there has been a major bee decline in the US over the past five years or so. While I have seen fewer bees the past few years, there were always plenty around at this time of year. This year seems uniquely "beeless" I have seen only a handful of bees this spring and they were all the wild, more solitary kind than the conventional honeybee. Not sure whether what I am seeing is local or more broadly an issue. One thing seems sure, a shortage of bees will impact fruit and vegetable crops!

Anyone else noticing a major bee shortage?
Jay

nissanneill 03-27-2010 02:42 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Jay,
I believe that the US has a major bee virus (or something) that is killing all of your bees. We here in Australia are exporting millions of bees to the US in the knowledge that they are free from the virus and able to breed up the numbers.

Neill

texassourdough 03-27-2010 07:29 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Hi Neill!

The decline in the US has actually been going on for years and the causes remain very uncertain. The past five years or so has been acute. I live in a relatively clean, natural environment and had seen the conventional "honeybee" population crash somwhat in the past five years but the number of wild bees (smaller colony, different body shape, often ragged looking) bees had increased and we still had a pretty good population. This year there are almost NONE. I may see one or two a day where I would see hundreds at a time last year. It's too early in spring to know how widespread the problem is but some US newspapers (I have learned) are reporting massive hive collapses over the winter. This could lead to some serious food difficulties this year (and an even more robust Australian bee import program).

Jay

Archena 03-27-2010 06:12 PM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Are the Australian colonies collapsing once here for awhile? Or is it just the sorta 'native' honeybees?

nissanneill 03-27-2010 06:40 PM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
I really don't know what is going on with the seasons nowadays.
My veggy garden was planted as per usual with a host of veggy types and varieties and although I got a reasonable crop, there was nothing like I normally got. There was always plenty of tomatoes for 3 or 4 10kg batches of sauces and chutnys, but only 1 this year. I also grow flowers within the garden specifically to attract the bees and I even resorted to hand pollination of my pumpkins and butternuts. I currently have a dozen 2 month tomato bushes in and only a half dozen fruits but more flowers so there is still hope, even though it is well past the ideal times, ie. the end of summer and commencement of Autumn (Fall).
I have friends up in the lower Flinders Ranges (around 3 hours drive north of Adelaide) who have bee hives that they collect honey from various different locations around the state and also selected areas in Australia, who are reporting lower yields.

Neill

Himzo 03-31-2010 03:01 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Hi Neil,

I don't think it's anything to do with the bees. I have a couple of hives of my own plus a wild hive on the property and have suffered a lack of fruiting from tomatoes through to other vegetables as well as trees.

I noticed with my tomatoes that every time I would get a decent bit of flowering we get hit with above 32C temps and the fruit doesn't set. The November heatwave wiped out my cherries and a couple of other stone fruits. The only ones that I got a reasonable amount of fruit from were the Cherry tomatoes, thses are in my Aquaponics system and have a different microclimate I guess.

As for the bees in the US, they are suffering from a pest called Veroa Destructor. The only continent/country it hasn't been able to invade (yet) is Australia. I don't rally know much about it, though I guess I will have to learn soon.

Himzo.

nissanneill 03-31-2010 04:05 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Thanks for that Himzo, it all adds to the overall picture.
I also have a 1 year old passion fruit vine growing and flowering well but none setting into fruit. My latest batch of tomatoes are also dying off from the bottoms up as they grow which seems wierd from previous experiences.


Neill

david s 03-31-2010 06:08 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Neill,
If you grow tomatoes in the same patch over and over again you risk getting nematodes. At least up here it is a problem, don't know about Adelaide. A remedy is to plant marigolds close by. Another trick I sometimes use is to insert a thin copper wire into the stem of the plant about 4 cm from the base (wait until the plant is about 10" high). Make a hole with a needle first. Copper wire from elec flex works well but you need to scrape the varnish off. Commercil tomato growers spray about twice a week with a copper based spray so the technique has some basis for validity.

david s 03-31-2010 06:09 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
Tomatoes are my all time favourite food and home grown are the best.

david s 03-31-2010 06:12 AM

Re: Missing Bees???
 
I have a hive of native bees living in the wall of my house near the downstairs bathroom. They are quite small but on my plumbers advice I've left them. They've been there for 8 years and seem to do a good job of pollinating around the garden.


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