The State of Play in the Bees’ World

I’m a bit bee-crazy these days (don’t drop the “bee” in that sentence please). I read books, check-out blogs, watch my hives and live in a state of awe over these amazing little critters.

My 2 beehives, happy in Sydney

My 2 beehives, happy in Sydney

In Australia we’re very lucky to have such a great environment for bees and to be varroa mite free (for now). In fact our beehives are so healthy that we are a major exporter of complete bee hives. It seems crazy that you’d package up and ship bees half-way around the world but bee colonies are in crisis in many countries and their value as pollinators is simply impossible to replace. No oil-based-man-made gizmo has been invented to take over from the honeybee (go bees!).

Bees are in trouble; Colony Collapse Disorder (no clear cause yet identified), varroa mites, pesticides and extreme climate events are taking their toll. Check out this  little (US-centric, but it applies everywhere) graphic to get some idea about what’s going on and the next time you see a honeybee at work, thank her for us all. (Thanks to Tim at Green Living London for posting the graphic link on his blog where I found it.)


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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16 Responses to The State of Play in the Bees’ World

  1. I saw a programme on French television about the Australian bees being exported to the USA for pollination. They go there to pollinate and die, there is no survival for them – a bit sad. Honey bees are used to pollinate industrially because they are so easy to move around. In nature it is not only the honey bees that pollinate. I see so many different kinds of bees around us and of course all the other insect pollinators. In the USA it seems they have killed off all the insects good and bad where they grow crops. Its a scary thought. I’m much more cool now when I see my veg nibbled by some unknown creepy crawly.

    • My garden is full of pollinators, lots of wasps and native bees as well as my honeybees. The truth is the honeybees are just superior pollinators so if we let them die off, we are in a world of hurt. I’m with you, I’d rather have a few leaves eaten by unwelcomed critters than lose all pollination of plants that need it.

      And yes, it is really sad how they pack up Aussie bees to live one season and then die in the US. I’ve heard there are some people who think it’s worth rehabilitating the bees by moving them in the off season to areas with a good climate and little or no insecticides so they can recuperate, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

  2. New Zealand was hit badly with the virus in 2000 and our bees in the wild are becoming fewer and fewer. They said on the news this week that soon we will only have bees belonging to protected hives.

    • I’ve heard that both Papua New Guinea and New Zealand now have varroa mite which means it will definitely hit Aus soon. If it’s decimating your wild bees, all bees are going to be in trouble soon. The treatment for Varroa is not even close to fully effective and the mites are building resistance as fast as humans find poisons to kill them. And, of course, the mites jump from wild bees to those that are managed by humans, it’s impossible to segregate the two. It’s not a happy forecast for the honeybee.

  3. Yes, varroa is a problem here in the UK. I am not going to say whether we have had the problem or not because I don’t want to bring down the evil eye. It’s easy enough to do the treatment at the end of summer (just a few oxalic jelly cakes in the hive), but during january you have to dribble a more concentrated form in between the frames. I am always concerned about killing more than the mites!

  4. Linda says:

    Really like that graph you linked! Since varroa is being discussed, the beekeepers I learned from used mineral oil spread across the tops of the frames to control varroa. This would make it impossible for the mite to move about the hive and they would suffocate from the oil.

  5. Linda says:

    No, it creates a thin coating (assumingly as it absorbs into the wood frames) that doesn’t hinder the bees movement. They’ve been using it for years with no repercussions. They also use Listerine mouthwash to discourage ants from nesting in the wood/hive. Neither smells have had any affect on their bees at all.

    • Listerine? Now what made someone try that trick?

      So far no varroa and no ants (touch wood) but I’ll keep these remedies in mind. The only thing we have is Small Hive Beetle which came to Aus a dozen or so years ago and is now everywhere. We hang small traps filled with vegetable oil on top of our frames and the clever bees chase the beetles inside where they drown. It’s nice when we can help the bees without doing something that is also harmful to them.

      • Linda says:

        I wish I knew! Maybe tricks used around the house in combination with desperation or something. I know I had so much trouble with a very persistent satellite ant nest in the top of my hive that I was willing to try anything myself! Somebody told me they had heard the flowers of Queen Anne’s Lace keeps ants out of homes. So, I placed some in the top of the hive and the ants disappeared for a long time. I also found that Yarrow was just as successful.
        I haven’t heard much about the Small Hive Beetle…they may not have been a problem where I lived, but I’m sure it will only be a matter of time…so I will definitely keep the trap in mind! Love to find more natural solutions to pests and problems and I was fortunate that the beekeepers I learned from encouraged the same.

        • I’ve tried so many home remedies to keep ants out and all work – up to a point (lavendar oil smeared along their entrance path being the best). Ants are very clever at finding their way around any deterrent so mainly I live with them (I’m not about to poison them). But getting a nest out of your hive with a few flowers is fantastic – I’m really impressed how much we can do with nature if we only know the secret!

          • Linda says:

            Nature always surprises me…It’s hard to believe so much of that kind of knowledge has been forgotten! I’m glad to be able to bring some of it back…who would have thought a few flowers could keep something as persistent as ants away? It definitely won’t bother the bees or anything else. Lol. I was really surprised at how well it worked and how long it kept the ants away…

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