There are half as many beekeepers as there were two decades ago, and the remaining beekeepers are mostly large-scale pollination services with thousands of hives and millions of bees. Global plant pollination is in decline.

Scientists blame namely two factors: climate change and the scourge of colony collapse disorder (CCD) among honey bees.

While climate change has been a creeping threat, CCD’s effects were swift: Back in October 2006, beekeepers around the world began reporting losses of up to 90 percent of their managed hives.

Beyond the losses of environmental flora, billions of dollars of food crop value—mainly commercial production of specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries and select vegetables—are lost because of the demise of the bees and their pollinating talents.

Over the past eight years, the alarm has sounded among governments, the media, and world citizenry.

This past June, the Obama Administration launched here in the US a Pollinator Health Task Force to increase public awareness of the issue and boost conservation partnerships between the public and private sectors.

There are half as many beekeepers as there were two decades ago, and the remaining beekeepers are mostly large-scale pollination services with thousands of hives and millions of bees. Lately, a new wave of smaller-scale beekeepers have emerged to help keep bee population numbers up in the wake of CCD.

You can now count the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) headquarters as one of them.

The author with one of the colony trays.

For years, I have been interested in bees.

So after IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes and board chair Kathy Savesky had discussed the CCD problem and thought of ways we could make a difference locally, they approached me.

I immediately joined a local beekeepers’ association here on Cape Cod, and I signed up for a six-month-long class to learn how to raise bees.

We constructed two hives, ordered two packages of bees totaling approximately 24,000 individuals to populate them, and got to work caring for the hive on a daily basis. Apparently our enthusiasm for our broods’ well-being is contagious and nearly everyone here in Yarmouth Port has visited the hives at some point in time.

IT staff members Anna Murphy and Jeff Beausang have undergone training to handle the bees, and others, some of whom may be averse to direct contact, help out in other ways, such as making food for the bees, a sugar syrup, which hive members feast on as they become self-sufficient.

The humming soothes me. It makes me happy when my bees are happy. And I continue to learn about them each day through my visits to the hive and conversations with mentoring beekeepers.

The bees we have are a friendly lot with benevolent queens, and we needn’t use smoke to keep them at bay when handling. I want to do everything I can to ensure their survival over the upcoming winter. Right now, the bees are collecting pollen from the wild golden rod within a few miles radius.

Here at IFAW, we see a lot of similarities between the species we save and protect and the bees that now live literally in our backyard. Keystone species like elephants and whales impact their habitats to make way for scores of other species to thrive.

Top predators like big cats keep populations of prey at the appropriate levels for maximum biodiversity levels. Here at home, the bees keep our local flora flourishing.

–PB

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Article source: IFAW

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