About half the honey bees are dead at Bee Heaven Farm, according to Miguel Bode, the beekeeper. He checked his hives after the last freeze and again this past weekend. The bottom of the hives had a layer about an inch thick of dead bees, and there were plenty more dead bees outside the hive entrances. And hives he keeps down the road at Paradise Farms also suffered casualties, but not quite as many, and bees there were more active.
Without a doubt, Miguel suspects pesticide spraying [in the mass casualties in one hive]. No telling where it occurred, because a bee can range as far as a mile from the hive in its search for food. When a bee brings back contaminated pollen to the hive, it will get distributed to the other bees, which will also sicken and die.
Miguel was surprised by the huge quantity of deaths because the hives were in decent shape before the cold weather rolled in. The bulk of his hives, which he keeps in the suburbs, remain in good condition.
It’s not likely that it was the cold that caused the mass die off. Miguel pointed out that bees which live Up North make it through much harsher winters than ours without significant problems. Bees can survive cold weather. When the temperatures drop, the bees inside the hive cluster into a ball, and vibrate the muscles of their wings to generate heat to stay warm. The temperature inside the cluster is about 90 degrees. The bees rotate from the warm inside of the cluster to the cooler outside, so that all can get warm. [But on the other hand, if the bees didn’t have enough food to make it though the abnormally long cold spell, they could have very well been affected by the cold, Miguel told me on Jan 30th.]
So, because the bees have been diminished, it doesn’t look like there will be much avocado honey this next season. The trees are putting out buds and will start blooming in a couple weeks. By the time the next generation of bees is old enough to go out and forage (about six weeks from now), the blooming season might be past its peak. There’s also a chance there may not be as many avocados this summer. [All of this is might and maybe, because mother nature doesn’t work on an exact schedule. A lot of variables are involved.]
This incident is all the more reason why Miguel is searching for that special yard somewhere in the suburbs where he can move his bees. (There isn’t as much mass spraying of pesticides there.) If you have a big yard and love bees and honey, contact him at beemyhoneymiami(at)yahoo.com for the details of the deal.