Monday, August 3, 2015

Bee Count 2015

Guest Blog by Jean Lorrah

Many people have discussed the disappearance of honeybees across the North American continent. It is noticeable even in cities, as long as there are yards, lawns, gardens, parks, or even window boxes. For the past several years there have been fewer bees than usual.

In the summer of 2014 I decided to count honeybees on my daily walks with my dogs. I noticed Mother Nature putting big bumblebees to work pollinating the blossoms, as well as tiny sweat bees, flies, and even wasps. That summer I counted every honeybee I saw on my walks from the first one I spotted late in May to the last one before the first frost in late October--and for that entire time I counted 63 honeybees. A sad accounting.

But of course one year means nothing, so as soon as I saw my first honeybee in 2015, I began counting again. At first I thought this year would be worse than last, because not only were there no honeybees to be seen, but a new kind of big bumbler moved into our area--bees that look exactly like the big bumblers, and move in the same clumsy way, but are about half their size (still bigger than honeybees).

It was a few days into June before I saw Honeybee #1. A couple days later I saw Honeybee #2, then it was #3 and #4 on the same day--and suddenly I was seeing from four to ten bees every day! The count advanced rapidly, and by late June passed last year's count for the entire summer.

I continued counting with rising hope that whatever had caused the hive collapse might be over, and by early July my count reached 174. Approaching triple the number of bees in 2014, with three months to go.

And then the rains came, over a week of storms, torrential rains with flooding, and damaging winds. That sequence was followed by a blistering heat wave.

My bee count stopped. Since the first storms almost a month ago, I have not seen a single honeybee. The heat broke last week, giving us several lovely days with highs in the 80s before it began getting hot again yesterday, but still no bees have appeared. Actually, not even the big bumblers or their smaller cousins are back, and the wasps, flies, and sweat bees have been pollinating the proliferation of flowers we have this time of year.

So I don't know what is happening. Perhaps the honeybees collected so much pollen before the storms drove them to shelter in their hives that they are still busy processing. I'd like to think that, and I will continue to keep an eye out for their re-emergence.

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