Thousands of Honey Bees Die After Truck Crash on California Highway

CBS News    November 3, 2017

AUBURN, Calif. -- Thousands of honey bees were killed when a semi truck crashed after avoiding a slow down on a freeway in California.

CBS Sacramento reports the crash happened around 7 p.m. Thursday night along Interstate 80. 

Police said traffic quickly backed up and the driver had to ditch the freeway, which caused the fatal accident for the honey bees. Boxes of beehives were crushed and the driver was sent to the hospital.  

"When they have an impact like that, they are usually sprung or damaged and really hard to salvage," said John Miller, a beekeeper in Newcastle.

He heard the news and quickly came to assess any chance of survival.

The Auburn Fire Department was forced to drown the bees, which created a dangerous situation for the public. Miller said he'd seen this happen before and there were no other options.

"It's a loss for the owners of the bees and it's a tragedy for the hives themselves. These bees were destined to do some pollination work next spring, fruits, vegetables, nuts. It's a tragedy, it's sad," he said.

If the crash were to have happened during the day, Miller says there might have been a better chance for survival.

The mess ultimately took hours to clean up. Authorities said the crash could have been an absolute disaster had the driver not bailed off of the freeway. 

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

When a Bee Sting Can Be Sweet!

Bug Squad - Happenings in the Insect World   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   12/4/13

A bee sting can be sweet.

Especially when the result is an auction item.

Take the case of "The Sting," a memorable lunch-hour photo that went viral. Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen and I were walking through the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, when he stopped abruptly.  "Kathy, get your camera ready,"...


Visit the Kathy Keatley Garvey Bug Squad blog at:

Beekeepers to Discuss Their Future in Lake Tahoe   By Kathryn Reed    11/18/13

Survival of the honeybee is of much greater importance than whether or not there will be honey on store shelves.

“We are having a hard time keeping bees alive … mostly the honeybees,” John Miller, president of the California State Beekeepers Association, told Lake Tahoe News. “Domestic honeybees are the global champions of pollination and honey production. They may be the most beneficial insect on Earth.”

But their habitat is shrinking as farmers plant nonnative crops that then take away areas for bees to forage.

Some of this is happening in North Dakota – one of three locations where Miller operates Miller Honey Farms. (The other locales are in Newcastle in Placer County and in Idaho.) North Dakota farmers are planting soybeans and corn on land that once was “summertime pasture for bees in California.”

This is one of the topics that will be discussed Nov. 19-21 during the state organization’s annual meeting at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

“We are the gatekeepers of the food supply. Thirty percent of what people now eat in America is directly traceable to honeybees,” Miller said.

The afternoon session on Nov. 19 will be about improving access for honeybees as well as the link between bees and almonds. Miller said the two are co-dependent.

“Without the bees, the almond industry will not continue to thrive and prosper, and without the almond industry, the beekeeper business model will fail,” Miller said.

What people are putting on their crops is of importance too, because bees consume pesticides and herbicides. Even the average homeowner should avoid applying pesticides in the middle of the day when “pollinators are visiting.”

Miller says the domestic-European honeybee is the most productive bee. All fruits with a pit benefit from them, as do pumpkins, kiwis, apples and berries, to name a few foods.

“As we become more wealthy as a planet, we improve our diet. As we improve our diet, we buy more of the foods that are dependent on bees for pollination,” Miller said. Without bees, he said, people will be eating a whole lot more corn and rice.

What groups like his can do is advocate for conservation programs to be reinstated. Miller said for various reasons a lot of public land is not available to beekeepers.

“We have to be the voice for our living. There is no government program,” Miller said.

He pointed to the Placer Land Trust as an entity that has been good to beekeepers. The group planted a seed mix that is a benefit for native species and pollinators.

While bees on their own fly from area to area pollinating plants and creating nectar, it is the beekeepers like Miller and his brethren who bring the bees in large numbers to farmers.

They are portable as they happily live in a hive. Some people are hobbyists, while others make a living as beekeepers. It’s not unheard for a beekeeper to have 10,000 hives.

The beekeepers can then make honey, which comes from just about every state. Flavors are all over the board, and this is because the bees are foraging on so many different plants.

Some facts about honey from Miller:

• Honey is the only food consumed by humans that is produced by an insect.

• The average honeybee will make only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

• To make 1 pound of honey bees travel as far as 55,000 miles, getting nectar from more than 2 million flowers.

• A colony produces 60 to 100 pounds of honey a year.

Beekeepers Plot Industry's Future at Tahoe Meeting

The Sacramento Bee (The Associated Press)  11/18/13

Beekeepers are gathering at Lake Tahoe this week to discuss the future of their industry and the challenges it faces.

California State Beekeepers Association President John Miller says domestic honeybees are one of the most beneficial insects on Earth.

But he tells the Lake Tahoe News ( ) their habitat is shrinking across the country as farmers plant non-native crops that take away from the bees' traditional foraging areas.

Miller says part of the group's annual conference opening at Harrah's Lake Tahoe on Tuesday will focus on the link between bees and almond trees. He says that without bees, the almond industry will not continue to thrive and prosper, and without almonds, the beekeeper's business model also will fail.

The conference runs through Thursday.

Read more:


Experts Discuss Ways to Boost Honeybee Forage   By Christine Souza  11/13/13

November 13, 2013 - At a first-of-its-kind meeting in Sacramento, beekeepers, farmers and representatives of public and private organizations gathered to discuss how to improve honeybee populations by allowing beekeepers access to more sources of bee forage.

During the meeting, held last week at the California Farm Bureau Federation, beekeepers and bee experts said increased access to forage on both public and privately managed lands would promote the long-term health and sustainability of managed honeybee populations.

California State Beekeepers Association President John Miller, a beekeeper from Newcastle, described the past 30 years in the bee business as "tumultuous."

"We're at a juncture here where we must address some fundamental issues of forage and access," Miller said...

Read more... 

What's Killing the Bees

By Kim Flottum, Special to CNN   updated 6:06 PM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013

Editor's note: Kim Flottum is the editor of Bee Culture magazine.

(CNN) -- That honeybees die is not new. And that beekeepers accept that on average 30% or more of their livestock will vanish each spring isn't new either. But when more than half of all the honeybees in this country die almost at once -- that is new. And that's what happened this spring.

Scientists have given this disaster the catchy, all-inclusive name Colony Collapse Disorder. It describes symptoms, but not cause.

The symptoms are straightforward. When examined in early spring, one day the colony has ample adults, an acceptable queen and a healthy number of juvenile bees ready to emerge and become adults. A week later -- the adults are gone. Poof. They vanish into thin air, leaving the juveniles to emerge into a dying world.

Up to now, the disappearance of the bees has been attributed to a cluster of causes, with no single definitive culprit.

Working in concert, malnourished, unhealthy bees are subject to the physical damage of blood-sucking Varroa mites that add insult to injury by sharing a host of immune-suppressing viruses with every bee they bite. Add to this an intestine-eating bacterial disease that destroys a bee from the inside out, and you can see that the end is near.

Beekeepers have expensive controls for mites, viruses and the intestinal disease, and when appropriately applied, those can curb the worst of these problems to an acceptable level -- if the bees are healthy to begin with.

With humans, if we get too little sleep, have a poor diet, and take on too much pressure, our stress levels rise and we succumb to ailments our otherwise healthy immune system could easily handle. And we get sick.

So it is with the bees. Their world is overrun with stress.

Riding on trucks affects their ability to produce food the young need. Varroa damage shortens their lives by double-digit percentage points. And the viruses subtract more days of being a bee. Throw in the intestine-eating disease and their fragile lives grow still shorter. And don't forget the compounds that beekeepers must use to keep Varroa from overrunning a colony. They are killing a bug on a bug. Our honeybees are surrounded on all sides by the means to their own end.

But by my reckoning, it's the stress that neither the bees nor the beekeepers have control over that is a major issue.

To thrive, any organism needs to be 100% strong, and that begins with a healthy diet. Beekeepers have a saying: Enough good food in the right place at the right time and your bees will be healthy, wealthy and wise. Basically, the food system in this country for honeybees is broken, and it needs fixing.

The Plains states, the Midwest, the Mountain States -- all were once a gastronomic paradise for honeybees. Millions of acres of Conservation Reserve Land bloomed, supplying a healthy mix of blossoms to thousands of honeybee colonies.

Today, much if not most of that dietary reserve has been plowed under to make way for 100 million acres of ethanol-producing corn. This sterile desert has nothing to offer -- except perhaps a tiny bit of the thousands of tons of agricultural pesticide applied to the corn, way back at planting time, that makes its way to the pollen collected by the bees, which is stored and eaten later. That's not enough to kill a bee, but it adds another layer of stress. And, some suspect, the tipping point stress.

Florida was a suburb of that paradise, before the trees were sprayed night and day, turning whole counties into a honeybee no-trespassing zone.

Everywhere, people are covering the land. Concrete, says John Miller, a North Dakota commercial beekeeper, is the last crop. When people put concrete down for parking lots, roads or houses, nothing will ever grow there again.

Without good food there is no future for a beekeeping industry in this country. Farmers, state and federal governments all must provide safe land for bees. All of this has been said again and again by pollinator supporters for years.

Without enough good healthy food, beekeeping is destined to become a concentrated feed lot enterprise. Stress wins. Varroa wins. We all lose.

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