Decatur’s Bees Disappear

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Angela Wade

The DHS beekeeping and gardening club celebrates the ribbon-cutting of the garden. From left: Mawal Sidi, Angela Wade, Zack Loehle and Rushabh Shah.

Beekeeping club started four years ago when senior Zack Loehle was in the ninth grade. After checking on a hive, he may have experienced a honey bee phenomenon that is occurring across the country.

“Bees are really cool … they’re just really interesting animals,” Loehle said.

Several hives have been created since Loehle was a freshman.

Although Loehle has an interest in beekeeping that goes beyond the average student’s, he admits there is plenty about bees that is mystifying to him.

“The colony as a whole is a fascinating social dynamic,” Loehle said.

Past hives were attended to during the summer to promote nectar flow and check the hive for pests.

“If the queen [bee] dies, the entire colony dies,” Loehle said.

Every hive has died off so far.

Some died because of pests and starvation, but one hive’s case was confusing.

“It could have been colony collapse disorder,” Loehle said.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon that occurs in hives when the bees simply vanish. First noted around 2006, it has created an economic struggle for commercial beekeepers and may affect the country’s food supply. Without bee pollination, crop production will decline and so will meal portions for Americans.

According to the Agricultural Research Service, “Annual losses from the winter of 2006-2011 averaged about 33 percent each year, with a third of [bee] losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers.”

If this trend continues, every American may be at risk.

“Without bees to pollinate many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, the United States could lose $15 billion worth of crops,” The Natural Resources Defense Council stated.

Although there has been research, a single cause cause for CCD has not been discovered.

“The bees are probably an indicator of what is happening in the environment,” Loehle said.

Pesticides have been labeled as one of the main culprits in the epidemic.

Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that were introduced around the same time CCD began. A systemic pesticide remains with the plant as it grows, creating residual toxicity. Along with this, diseases and parasites are also combining to cause CCD.

Although results are uncertain, Decatur High School’s garden plans to continue trying to raise a successful hive.

“We are going to get a new hive sometime soon,” Loehle said.

He said he will never give up on beekeeping, no matter the odds.

“It’s really fun. Once you do it, it’s kind of addictive,” Loehle said.