Colony collapse disorder not a problem
Published Friday, July 6, 2007 1:03:30 PM Central
By ERIC HJERSTEDT SHARP
Globe Staff Writer
IRONWOOD TOWNSHIP -- Beekeeper Amy Van Ooyen
has been raising bees for about 33 years.
Although the recent colony collapse disorder
hasn't really affected her hives, she does have her own ideas
as to why it is an issue for beekeepers in the lower peninsula,
southern Wisconsin and elsewhere around the country.
"It is a problem," Van Ooyen said.
"But not really around here yet."
One of less than a handful of beekeepers in Gogebic
County, Van Ooyen has gone from more than 50 hives to just five.
She keeps one hive near her home in Ironwood Township, just off
Lake Road on the way to Little Girl's Point.
She still finds it enjoyable, and has learned quite a bit about
the art and science of beekeeping, having helped more than 10
people get a start in the honey business.
"I'm a hobbyist," she said. "When
I had 50 hives, I was what they called a 'sideliner.' There are
people around the country, that have between 3,000-8,000 hives,
and rent them out to pollinate fields, and these people do it
for a living."
These are the people with the colony collapse
disorder problem, she said. Two types of mites can weaken the
bees, requiring the hives to be medicated. Pesticides, severe
winters, and improper management techniques all contribute to
the issues which weaken the bees immune systems. Whether or not
these factors -- or a combination of some or all of them -- contribute
to the mysterious disappearance of bees is still not completely
Van Ooyen believes mites are the main reason
for the disorder, particularly the varroa mite. She says some
bee suppliers have started inserting a chemical strip with the
packets of bees. This non-toxic strip guards against the mites,
at least in this area, and seems to be keeping away the attacks
of the mites, she said.
Cold weather does impact the bees in the U.P,
and bee keepers often have to get a new swarm of bees to replace
the ones that don't make it over the winter.
The mites attack the bees, then die and can be found on the bottom
of the hive, she said. So far, only bees from Australian suppliers
are free of the mites.
But scientists are not sure if is only the mites
that cause the disorder. Van Ooyen said none of the beekeepers
in Gogebic County have the thousands of hives that many do in
the warmer climates, such as Georgia, Tennessee or California.
Those beekeepers travel many miles with their hives, sometimes
in semi-trucks, and rent the hives to farmers for pollination
Van Ooyen started the hobby several years after
she and her late husband Claude moved to lower Michigan from Holland.
She also remembers her father also kept bees when she was a little
She anticipates the honey "flow" will
begin next week, somewhat early this year. Then in September,
with the fall flowers, another honey harvest takes place.
"The bees start making honey again in anticipation
of the cold weather," Van Ooyen said. "They produce
about 120 pounds of honey per hive. Downstate, they only produce
about 70 pounds per hive."
The bees need about 100 pounds of their honey
over the winter. She thinks the bees up here may be producing
more because of the cold winters.
When she decided to reduce her number of hives, she sold the extra
hives and bees to Lynn Austin of North Bessemer, whom she had
introduced to bee keeping several years ago.
"He's done real well," she said. "The
health food store and the grocery store in Ironwood both sell
his honey on the shelf."
There is also a beekeeper in Bruce Crossing who
has a large number of hives, and makes a living at it, she added.
She also said he teaches other people how to keep bees and harvest
"A lot of people start up, but very few
continue on with it," Van Ooyen said. "You have to have
a knack for it."
This article was originally published in
the Daily Globe [Ironwood, MI] at http://www.ironwooddailyglobe.com/0706bees.htm