An answer must be found for the bees and for maintaining their essential functions. Leading experts, such as Dennis van Engelsdorp of the USDA, Jim Miller, chair of the California State Beekeepers Association (CSBA, California is the most important state in the USA when it comes to bees) and opinion formers such as Randy Oliver of www.scientificbeekeeping.com and Markus Imhoff, maker of the film ‘More than Honey’, have conducted much excellent work. They and many others are contributing to finding solutions.
Unfortunately, despite the many efforts, a solution for bee decline has not yet been found. In the meantime, bee populations continue to weaken.
Many causes and extremely diverse reasons are stated as the cause for bee decline. There are almost as many opinions and speculations as bee colonies themselves. Each scientific group, in the beekeeping community or in society as a whole has its own point of view. Without a doubt, each contains an element of truth. There's something for everyone. Well-founded theories are scarce, even in scientific publications. After all, there must be a good reason why the worldwide phenomenon of bee decline, for beekeepers as well as for many others, is shrouded in mystery. For an extensive recent overview (May 2013) see the Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health.
In the first place, the worldwide bee decline is an ecological problem. There is a general weakening of bee health, which gives all kinds of pathogens an opportunity to take hold. Increased bee decline is wide spread, and occurs in a wide range of situations, even in areas of natural beauty and where bee colonies are well cared for. Diverse and independent influences play a role, but in our opinion, these are not the primary cause of bee decline.
What applies to bees, also applies to other insects.
Bee decline became a major item on the agenda when professional beekeepers in the USA were suddenly confronted with exceptionally high mortality, ranging from 30% to 100%. This formed an immediate threat to their existence because of the economic damage. Currently, in 2013, there is an absolute shortage of bee colonies for pollinating almonds in California, which may cause even greater economic loss. In the space of about 8 years, prices for pollination services have risen from approximately USD 60 per bee colony to USD 150.
The focus of scientific research into bee decline is currently on diseases, and most research concentrates on minor points. Often, systematic errors are made. Much of the research is without risk, because financial resources are only provided if the expected results are clear. As yet, there is no consensus. A coherent picture has yet to be constructed to depict what exactly is going on. No 'general guiding factor’ has been identified with which the presence of the Varroa mite, the prevalent diseases, and CCD can be explained.
To date, scientists have not been able to offer beekeepers a solution or any promising results.
Global beekeeping community
The global beekeeping community is rather divided. Many beekeeping associations in Europe and the USA have a statement about neonicotinoids on their website. By doing this, they have sought support from the environmental organizations. The national scientific institutes consider the beekeeping associations as a distribution channel for their knowledge and expertise. This is one of the reasons why beekeeping associations in the various countries have different visions and is the root of differences in opinion between associations within one country.
The issue of neonicotinoids has contributed to the marked increase in numbers of hobby beekeepers, in some regions by 30%. These hobbyists are also fueling a new trend – urban beekeeping.
In the general discussion in society, a number of factors are mentioned as causes for bee decline: agriculture with the accompanying use of pesticides and genetically modified crops, the impoverishment of the landscape including reduced numbers of foraging plants, the environment and the way in which professional beekeepers in the USA operate. These causes of bee decline are all difficult to quantify.
From a scientific point of view we could expect a technical model to apply to bee mortality (diseases are the cause of bee decline). These diseases must be countered, so that bees can thrive again.
The technical model and societal model are like two sides of the same coin (people are the cause of bee decline). The mortality must be resolved with administrative and political measures. Everyone must help solve the problem of bee decline.
The beekeeper is situated in between the technical model and the societal model, in the world of the ideas-economy. Beekeepers work with nature and in this natural world, there is no place for chemical substances.
In our opinion, the problem of the bee decline can only be solved through practical experiment. Just as the beekeepers have been able to identify the signals about the current state of affairs, so they can contribute to finding the solution. At the most, experiments in laboratories can play a supportive role. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/110279