05/02/07 — Where, oh where, have all the bees gone?

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Where, oh where, have all the bees gone?

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 2, 2007 1:55 PM

Wayne County beekeeper Chris Rarick doesn't know why he is losing bees.

All he knows is that he is not alone.

The disappearance of thousands of bee colonies around the world has beekeepers, scientists and farmers confounded. It is not unusual for colonies to die out. But when they do, they normally leave traces behind.

But the recent disappearances have left no clues as to what has happened.

Rarick has lost thousands of bees from two of his hives north of Goldsboro. Had disease, poison or cold weather been the culprit, there would have been signs, Rarick said, but his bees, like million of others, have simply vanished.

The result could prove catastrophic for crops that depend on bees for pollination. Officials with Mt. Olive Pickle Co. say they and area cucumber growers are deeply concerned about the problem.

Rarick is a member of the Neuse Beekeepers Association. He said other beekeepers have witnessed the same phenomenon and have no more of an answer than beekeepers elsewhere.

Some beekeepers in the Wayne County area have not reported any problem with disappearing worker bees, Rarick said. The ones who fare worst seem to be the commercial beekeepers, he noted.

He said nobody knows what is causing the disappearances, whether it's something that the bees ate last year or something that's on the crops they are pollinating this season.

"Some think it's because we had a weak honey flow last year," Rarick said. "It was the worst flow in 23 years."

Rarick said most people do not appreciate how devastating the loss of so many bees could be.

"They are vital, and people just don't know it's an issue. ... If we don't have bees any more, we're in trouble."

Scientists are referring to the massive loss of bees as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD.

Rarick maintains more than 50 hives and said he hopes most of them are spared. He said he knows of one local beekeeper who has lost 20 hives. The cold snap last month did not help, he added.

Beekeepers are keeping a close eye on their hives, he said, hoping that their colonies will rebuild themselves. And farmers and gardeners are watching as well.

Rarick said the next few months could determine whether nature can make up for the lost hives.

"Nobody is saying much about it. Maybe we're not taking care of them like we should. I hope we can find out. ... We're praying and hoping God will let us hold on to them."