Our two honeybee hives at the farm provide us with so much more than just incredible honey. They also help to pollinate many of the fruit trees, vegetable crops and flowers in our garden and landscape. In addition, they are simply fascinating and beautiful creatures to watch. 

honeybee hives
Our Honeybee Hives at the farm

I think by now everyone realizes how much honeybees bring to all of our tables. They are pollinating machines. Without them in the picture, our choices of fruits, vegetables and many other fresh foods would be extremely sparse. And that is putting it lightly.

But sadly, our bees, like many others all over, are in serious trouble. It doesn’t take a proverbial “Rocket Scientist” to see that honeybees are dying off everywhere at an alarming rate. 

The Struggles Of Our Honeybee Hives

This spring will mark the fourth time in the last 5 years that we have had to replace at least one of our two hives due to a colony collapse. It is the second time during that span that both hives have not made it through the winter. Our hives were absolutely thriving last year and then suddenly, without warning, began to collapse. It is the same process almost every season. The numbers begin to fall, the colony grows weak, and they are unable to make it through winter.

We are certainly not professional beekeeping experts, nor scientists, entomologists or biologists. But we are a couple of bee keeping enthusiasts who have struggled mightily over the last few years to keep our bees alive from season to season. And it is certainly not from a lack of effort.  

In fact, we have tried to help them in every way possible. We have moved our bees twice to new locations to help provide maximum protection. We’ve tried winterizing their hives in new ways to provide better protection from the elements. We’ve attempted several different methods of hive management as well, including feeding later and earlier in the year to help build colony strength. But still they are dying off. As are the hives of so many other beekeepers across the country.

honeybee hives
A honeybee sucking up nectar from a dandelion at the farm

There are a thousand theories as to why it is all happening and at the head of the list is the massive overuse of pesticides. What is sad is that many of them never need to be sprayed in the first place.

Do we really need to spray lawns five times a year to prevent a few weeds from popping up? Do we need to spray crops every time we see a single bug take a few bites out of leaves? 

I love watching our honeybees grab nectar each Spring from the dandelions in our yard. But then I wonder how many others bees are probably dying from having the unfortunate luck of landing in a just-sprayed yard, or a giant farm field being sprayed with insecticides. 

So what is the point of this article? Well, to help bees. Because I have to tell you it is absolutely disheartening to watch them struggle and die every year.

The simple fact is that we all need to do our part to help bees. Whether it’s planting a field of wildflowers for them to have sources of nectar, or spraying less – or not at all. Maybe it’s even trying to help by keeping a few hives in your own backyard. We need the honeybees!     Great Beekeeping Books :  The Backyard Beekeeper  –  Storeys Guide To Keeping Bees

Here’s to a healthy year for the honeybee hives! – Jim & Mary. If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.  This article may contain affiliate links.


Tagged on:                 

36 thoughts on “The Struggle To Keep Our Bees. What Is Really Happening To Honeybee Hives?

  • March 21, 2017 at 2:47 pm
    Permalink

    I started a hive of bees last year. They survived the mild winter and now are prospering. Since I’m a diabetic, I don’t eat their honey. They are here to pollinate plants and make life more interesting.

  • March 21, 2017 at 5:14 am
    Permalink

    Hello,

    I am an U.S. Citizen that has moved & living in Ghana (WEST AFRICA) My wife & I just purchased a small Cocoa Farm & Need to start Bee Keeping to pollinate all of the COCOA TREES!!! I want to get U.S.D.A. Certified as ORGANIC so I will not be using pesticides, Especially since I want to have bees I will need several hives because I have over TEN THOUSAND (10,000) tress. I am asking for help about bee keeping & especially in Africa & GHANA. Does anyone have any information about getting the QUEENS & COLONIES for several Bee Hives???? Please send me any information that anyone may have!!!

    I would be truly grateful for any & all of the help anyone could give me.

    Respectfully,

    Eric K. Meredith

  • March 20, 2017 at 9:35 pm
    Permalink

    I do not have personal bee-keeping experience to share, but I will say that I attended a Permaculture conference last fall where Paul Stamets, the founder of Fungi Perfectii, spoke. He described a fascinating relationship between bees and fungi and research going on at Washington State University that shows great promise. I highly recommend attending a presentation coming up March 29 (2017) if you are in the Western Washington area: http://bees.wsu.edu/seattle/.
    And here’s an NPR article on the research – http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/09/446928755/could-a-mushroom-save-the-honeybee

  • March 20, 2017 at 2:18 pm
    Permalink

    I know your struggle. We had 2 good hives and lost both. It’s not a good thing. Try contacting the University of Georgia as they do extensive research on bees there. They can probably help you.

  • March 20, 2017 at 9:07 am
    Permalink

    Where are you getting your bees? I would frankly be surprized to see more than a 50% survival rate if you are buying packages from GA or Cali and trying to get them through Ohio winters.

    I’ve experienced pretty heavy losses every year that I have kept bees, but since swearing off packages and only purchasing local stock, it’s gotten a lot better.

    I’d also recommend starting with four hives, to increase your odds of overwintering – you can split surviving hives in the Spring, which is basically a super simple mini breeding program to select for locally adapted stock.

    Between rampant spraying, varroa and an abundance of inexperienced beekeepers, keeping healthy bees has become harder than ever, but there are still plenty of us out there making it work. Don’t give up hope!

    • March 20, 2017 at 9:16 am
      Permalink

      Sarah Is Right. A Point Well Worth looking into…Try repopulating with successful local bee hives in your immediate area.

      • March 20, 2017 at 9:33 am
        Permalink

        Hello,

        I am an U.S. Citizen & now living in GHANA (WEST AFRICA) My wife & I have purchased a small Cocoa Tree Farm we have a little over TEN THOUSAND COCOA TREES!!! We will get our FIRST small MID HARVEST from July thru end August!!! Then the Main from December thru Feb the 2017-18 years!!! WE want to start with the U.S.D.A. Certified ORGANIC COCOA FARMING!! I know this is a THREE (3) year process!!! Since ORGANIC is NO PESTICIDES!!! Please tell us how to start to raise honey bees in AFRICA???? Yes, I have seen the movies of KILLER BESS!!! But please there MUST BE EASIER ways of BEE KEEPING here in Africa??? Especially in GHANA????

        I would be very grateful for any advise & DIRECTIONS for BEES here in GHANA???? ALSO is ALL AFRICAN HONEY BEES KILLER BEES???? What can we DO??? Is there any good books on this subject???? Where can I get bees & information on bee keeping in AFRICA & ESPECIALLY in GHANA (WEST AFRICA)????

        Respectfully,

        Eric K. Meredith

        • March 20, 2017 at 10:34 am
          Permalink

          Eric,
          I would start with your local government agriculture commissioner’s office first and go from there….

          Funny you talk about the killer bees. They originated in Africa. Story was, a swarm was accidentally hidden in some well drilling equipment that was shipped by ocean container to South America back in around 1946. The swarm slowly migrated up towards the United States taking out domestic bees and cross breeding. The cross breeding has somewhat caused them to be a little less aggressive but not much. It has really reeked havoc on the domestic bee population. The only good thing about this is that the killer bees have an extremely low tolerance for cold temperatures. Their migration will probably stop with the colder climate areas.

          I’ve heard of instances where they have attached dogs that were tide up to their dog house and can’t get away. The bees provoke very easy. They attack the dog and within 10 to 15 minutes the dog is dead from an over dose of bee venom. Your only recourse of getting away is a large body of water where you can be totally submerged…It can be a problem when coming up for air. The Killer bees don’t give up easily.

          I know,,,,T.M.I.
          Hope this Helps,
          C. Collins

          • March 20, 2017 at 1:40 pm
            Permalink

            Hello Collins, Thank you. This is a new thing here in Ghana!! They are not even interested in organic Cocoa here!!! But I am & I want to grow & be CERTIFIED ORGANIC COCOA FARMING & PROCESSING!!! Since I have approx over TEN THOUSAND (10,000) COCOA TREES!!! I WANT THEN ALL TO FLOWER & YIELD!!! SO BEE HIVES MAKE SENSE TO ME!!!

            I am even starting to raise EGG LAYING CHICKENS for the CHICKEN POOP!!! FOR ORGANIC FERTILIZER!!! I ALSO WANT TO ADD TILAPIA FISH FARMING FOR THE FISH MEAT & THE FISH POOP FOR MY COCOA TREES!!!

            Ghana is the worlds SECOND PRODUCER OF COCOA IN THE WORLD!!! It USED to BE #1) in the WORLD!! GHANA ALSO GROWS SOME OF THE BEST COCOA IN THE WORLD!!! MY WIFE IS ONE (1) OF THREE (3) COMPANIES THAT PRODUCE SO I WANT TO GROW THE BEST & PRODUCE THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!! SO I NEED HELP WITH BEES!! IT SEEMS THAT NO ONE HERE IN GHANA KNOW ABOUT BEES HERE IN GHANA!! PLEASE I AM BEGGING EVERY ONE HERE TO GIVE ME ADVISE!!!!! INFORMATION???? WHERE CAN U GET THE KNOWLEDGE ON HONEY BEES IN GHANA & ESPECIALLY IN (WEST AFRICA) ESPECIALLY IN (GHANA) ANY HELP & IN ANY DIRECTIONS I WOULD BE EVER GRATEFUL!!!!

            Respectfully,

            Eric K. Meredith
            Please help me with anything & EVERYTHING YOU CAN!!!!

          • March 21, 2017 at 9:27 am
            Permalink

            Hello Eric,
            Sounds like in the mean time your going have to learn to hand pollinate the trees yourself while researching the bee situation.
            The commercial Date farmers in Southern Calif and Arizona have mechanically pollinating Date Trees for probably the last 80 – 90 yrs. very successfully. They harvest the pollen dust from the male trees and and hand pollinate the female trees for increased production.
            I’m pretty certain that that cultural practice is in process right now! …One other thing you might consider is strategically
            planting male trees throughout your groove.

            Some citrus varieties require pollinator trees planted throughout the orchard. As an example mandarin orange trees have another variety of an orange tree used as the pollinator.

            The spacing for the pollinator citrus tree is;
            every fourth tree in every forth row…..Between the winds and the bees pollination usually is very successful.

            Hope This helps,
            Commodore Collins

          • March 21, 2017 at 11:02 am
            Permalink

            Hello Collins,

            I really don’t want to do that, Wat TOO MUCH WORK & even more expertise than I have!!! I am really praying for some advise about WHERE & HOW to get a COLONY of bees??? There are pollination going on in the wild as is!!! But I though if I could get five to ten (1) hives going all year long that might really help my yield??? I really need to be reading & if someone could possibly direct me to some place to purchase colonies for the hives!!

            But I need to learn the basics as soon as possible & then especially get so hives going But now I must read as much as possible & if any one can give me some names of GREAT BOOKS that would help me get started I would be ever so grateful!!! ll BEE KEEPING for or in GHANA & (WEST AFRICA)

            Respectfully,

            Eric K. Meredith

  • March 20, 2017 at 8:35 am
    Permalink

    WOW….So Sorry and Worried…It’s hard not to get cynical about the situation…Never-The-Less a very serious problem. Without Bees, We Have Nothing….

    Years ago I had a hive of the regular old yellow honey bees. Very docile and easy to work with. Never needed gloves, long sleeves or face net protection. They were like pets to me. The hive was taken over and destroyed by the invasion of the Killer bee population that slowly migrated up from South America….

    The Killer Bee is not very productive and extremely hard to do anything with as well as other issues that came with the situation. Since that time a lot of the commercial apiaries (Bee Farms) lost their business over a slow process due to cross breading of the bee population. They never got back into it.

    It is indeed a very real concern across American Farm Communities….

    I have some friends in Southern Caif. that farm Greenhouse vegetables on a large scale. Roughly $40,000 per acre for a setup. Not Cheap!!!!!
    They had to go to the Black Bumble Bee for pollination to increase production. I don’t think their were concerned with honey production, just good pollination results.

    Check them out…http://www.northshoregreenhouses.com/

  • March 19, 2017 at 7:00 pm
    Permalink

    My cousins put theirs indoors during the winter. Also our neighbors have highly successful hives across the roads from our fields and we are conventional farmers. They simply educated us on the hazards of us spraying and have asked to be notified the day before we spray. Sorry it’s been rough for you guys we love bees!!

  • March 19, 2017 at 3:50 pm
    Permalink

    The ratio of uv light has changed in recent years. The official ratio is uvA 95%, uvB 4 – 5 %, uvC less than 1%. Dane Wiggington of Geoengineering.com has published data, backed up by a video demonstration, showing that the ratios have changed in favour of uvB, it nows accounts for 60% of the spectrum. I believe that bees see in the uv spectrum. I suspect that the chemtrail spraying is a vain attempt to shield the Earth from damaging uvB & C radiation.

  • March 19, 2017 at 2:33 pm
    Permalink

    These stories are heartbreaking, and terrifying, too. I am very grateful to all of you who are keeping bees and working to keep them safe, and so sorry for your emotional and financial losses.

  • March 19, 2017 at 1:55 pm
    Permalink

    Our past neighbours liked to fog Mosquitos when they went outside. They also lit some sort of insect killer thing every evening. They also used to like spraying Raid around killing wasps and bees out of the air. Said it was all completely safe. Not if you are a bee for heavens sake. Some peoples’ children, eh?

  • March 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm
    Permalink

    It would be interesting to see what putting a carport / roof over the hives, to protect them from chemtrails, does.

    We have seen a weird white fungus/substance all over our garden from chemtrails.

  • March 19, 2017 at 12:03 pm
    Permalink

    Have you looked into Nosema ceranae? It is a microsporidia (type of fungus parasite) that is also associated with bee loss along with varroa mites, neonicotinoids (systemic fungicides -being placed on plants in nurseries), certain practices and pesticide use. I did a paper on Nosema last semester in Mycology class. Check out: http://blogs.evergreen.edu/fungalkingdom/honey-bee-murder-suspect-number-one-nosema-ceranae/
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/nosema-ceranae-kiss-of-death-or-much-ado-about-nothing/
    http://kelab.tamu.edu/coulson/Pdf_pub/Rangel_et_al_15.pdf

    Not sure if your local extension would be helpful or local beekeeping association? For further info:
    http://www.pollinator.org
    http://www.xerces.org

    Sara Wallace, Grad student in Entomology and Plant Pathology

  • March 19, 2017 at 11:04 am
    Permalink

    I don’t have bees. I’ve never lived anywhere where having bees was possible or good for the bees so my question may show my lack of experience. The question is, could bees live exclusively in a very large greenhouse full of all kinds of plants?

    • March 19, 2017 at 12:05 pm
      Permalink

      Yes, as long as they had habitat and food year round for living. Just like farmscaping; having pollinators and good bugs nearby; creating habitat and food plants (all seasons of flowers) so they are available, active and close when the bad bugs appear in crops or gardens.

    • March 20, 2017 at 7:00 am
      Permalink

      thats a good question I’ve never thought about before. I don’t think they would live but I’ll have to look into it a bit more, nice question though

  • March 19, 2017 at 11:02 am
    Permalink

    I have always been interested in bee keeping but know very little about it. I am curious though what cleaning process of the hive is done after a loss? Would cleaning every part of the hive with hydrogen peroxide help? This should kill any mites and their eggs left behind along with any bacteria. I believe this should do no harm to the bees especially if left to air dry for several days.

  • March 19, 2017 at 10:01 am
    Permalink

    I started back into bees last year with two hives. Lost a hive late in the season so I have ordered two new packages of bees for a late April delivery. I’m planting 5lbs of wild flowers in a area I had turned last fall. I have checked bees this spring and they doing well so far. The warm weather we had here in Newark Ohio got the bees active early. I’m going to use screen bottom boards this year and see if that makes a difference. Have made three so far for a trial.

    • March 19, 2017 at 12:31 pm
      Permalink

      I want to invite you to join ECOBA meeting are the tubes thurs of the month at the mound park so not far from you on 37. You can go to bee yard every thurs if you choose. They will show you how to count your mites ect… We had a study with mites and smoking with staghorn sumac which proved to work. Your like me and try to do everything as natural a possible. The sumac grows everywhere and can be harvested a. Dried in late summer. The bees from the south I don’t think are as hardy up here in ohio. Beeing in the club has many benefits as a beekeeper 🙂 hope to see you there sometime

  • March 19, 2017 at 9:47 am
    Permalink

    We finally gave up on Bees. every year total loss. have not done Bees in a couple of years now.
    What is killing all our bees ?
    Our story….
    First batch were killed between bears and high winds.
    Second batch, neighbor did round up on his fence line. All dead with-in 24 hours and were kept way away from the spray area.
    third batch, winter kill….warm and cold, back and forth, finally took em out.
    4th and 5th attempt, summer kill from ?
    6th time around…summer kill.
    In every case, all were feeding very well. very active colonies. In-depth investigation by the county AG center….no clue as no mites, spiders, mouse or other infestation found…same with all other hives we had tested.

    Our conclusion ? Over head spraying by our illustrious government. Some call it chem. trails….skies are full of it.
    AG center did question the amount of aluminum found in every case. Where did the aluminum come from they asked ? No clue other then the trails in the sky.
    Those “Trails” are loaded with it. Monsanto production !
    Ever notice how all of Monsanto crops are aluminum oriented ? Ever notice how Monsanto crops kill everything of like type and only the ‘santo crops survive ?
    Last few years, we have had very little of any type of Bee activity. Fruit trees basically untouched. Wild flowers dying do to lack of pollinators. And, again no bees in any of the wild flower fields.
    We used various types of winter protection to include putting them in warmer a building. Same results, all dead by spring.
    Our location….the UP of MI.
    Here, the base rate for a small starter mix of bees will run you about $150.00 per hive. A Nuke will run about $600.00. That’s not pocket change now I’m here to tell ya. Same situation with every bee keeper we know up here.
    We will not do bees again, just to much $ involved for us.
    I would like to “throw” money around like everyone else, ya gotta have it first in large quantities to do so. Jim

    • March 19, 2017 at 12:50 pm
      Permalink

      I agree 100%.Its the aluminum from the aerosol spaying in the sky.Combined with the other chemicals they are spraying.Also the electromagnetic pulses from HAARP.They are purposely poisoning all plants,animals,insects and humans..So sad..

    • March 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm
      Permalink

      Same story here in Kentucky. Everyone I know who has tried to keep bees looses them. It’s a bummer.

    • March 20, 2017 at 7:04 am
      Permalink

      a nuk is $600 ? that’s wild here in central Missouri package bees around $125 and a split slightly more at $145 or so

  • March 19, 2017 at 9:39 am
    Permalink

    please send me any information about bees. I have a Cocoa Farm here in GHANA (WEST AFRICA) We all need bees for pollination of all flowers!!! Even in Africa!! Please refer me to any books I can read or information to help increase my yield!!

    Respectfully,

    Eric K. Meredith

  • March 19, 2017 at 9:15 am
    Permalink

    We are beekeepers too (Alliance, OH) and, for some unexplained reason, have not lost a hive yet in 4 years. We have taken all the same measures as you have, as well as treating for varroa with an oxalic acid vaporizer. Reading blogs such as Backyard Beekeeper and Ohio Beekeeper, I can assure you that you are not alone! Beekeeping is a challenging activity these days. Within a few days of getting our first hive, placed within our backyard vegetable garden, we had a huge die off. We think one of our neighbors fogged their yard prior to a party. Luckily, the hive survived, but it was heartbreaking. They all know not to do that now. Good luck! Get more bees, but get local stock. Our bees are all from Ohio.

    • March 21, 2017 at 5:06 pm
      Permalink

      I guess I didn’t knock on wood or spoke too soon. Today, it’s 55 degrees here and I saw no activity in our backyard hive. Decided to open it to see what was going on and they are all dead. They were two inches away from capped honey. The super they were in had six frames of honey. They were still winter wrapped and had a 2/3 closed screened bottom board. Two weeks ago they were bringing in pollen. There were a few mites on the mite board, but nothing I would call attention to. Sad.

  • March 19, 2017 at 8:35 am
    Permalink

    We are facing the same problem here in Virginia. Our local beekeeping club membership is reporting record losses of hives this again this year.

    • March 19, 2017 at 11:00 pm
      Permalink

      Extreme Southern Illinois has experienced the same problem. Last summer was very wet, and a LOT of farmers crop dusted. A short time later, many beekeepers lost some or all of their hives. The irony of the situation is that the farmers may have saved some of last year’s crop, but they will lose this year due to fewer bees pollinating.

  • March 19, 2017 at 8:15 am
    Permalink

    You may want to look into the topic of Varroa mite. They are parasites that feed on bees. Almost microscopic. A big problem with hobbiest been keeping.

  • March 19, 2017 at 8:13 am
    Permalink

    Hi, I hear you with the struggle. I lost my first package of bees at the end of fall. It was Bc of varroa mites. The swarm of bees I caught are still alive today as had a low mite count in fall. They were also native bees. My package was from Georgia. Try getting northern bees and smoke your bees with stag horn sumac or rhubarb leaves when you get in them. The mites hate it. Also are you using a solid bottom board or screen? Hope this helps

Comments are closed.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Our Mailing List To Get Our Free Gardening Tips, Recipes and DIY Tips Delivered Straight To Your Inbox!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: