April 30, 2012

Mild winter may lead to huge bee die-off

By MECHELE COOPER Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Roy Cronkhite of Livermore Falls checks one of his hives Saturday to make sure the queen bee had plenty of empty cells left in the wooden frames of the hives to deposit eggs. He pulled out three frames until he found the queen.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal


Roy Cronkhite, a beekeeper in Livermore Falls and president of the Kennebec Beekeepers Association, said beekeepers never had the luxury of federal or state funding like other agricultural entities until colony collapse disorder came to light.

"That really shook up a lot of people who said, 'Oh, my God,'" Cronkhite said. "If these large pollinators who go from state to state across the country are having this terrible problem, how will we get our crops pollinated? So they threw some money at it to do some research to find out the reason."

Cronkhite on Saturday checked his hives to make sure the queen bee had plenty of empty cells left in the wooden frames of the hives to deposit eggs. He pulled out three frames until he found the queen.

"I see there's plenty of cells over here, so she's fine," he said. "She has plenty of room."

Cronkhite hasn't checked yet this year for mites, but he planned to do it later in the day with some friends. He planned to place mineral oil on the bottom board of the hive that the mites will stick to when they fall off the bees.

"You take the number of mites and divide it by the number of dead bees, and that comes up with a percentage," he said. "If it's greater than 10 percent, we have to treat."

He said regional bee clubs and the Maine State Beekeepers Association try to educate their members about colony collapse disorder. They rely on sources outside the state for information on the latest news regarding the problem, he said.

"We're hearing a lot of stuff about genetically engineered crops and wondering what the heck it is doing to the bees," Cronkhite said. "The young bees -- the larva stage -- they look like a little grub. They're fed flower nectar and pollen. The honeybee mixes that with their own enzymes, and that becomes food for the lava.

"If you have good food, you get the highest potential for growth and healthy bees. Anything less than that you're taking away from the bee, which can cause problems and weakness in the hives."

He said beekeepers continue to have the financial burden of replacing lost hives.

"There's no funding," he said. "It's just unfortunate."

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Mechele Cooper can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:



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