Beekeepers face a complex future

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
BY ROBIN DOUSSARD // PHOTOS BY ADAM BACHER
1010_Bees01
The beekeepers at Foothills Honey Company in Colton manage 5,000 hives. Says owner George Hansen: “We ask a lot of hard work of bee
The honeybee is without a doubt the irresistible part of this story. A winsome insect, with six legs, two compound eyes, three simple eyes, two sets of wings, a nectar pouch and a stomach, it is famously industrious, clean and organized, not to mention an exceptional team player, good construction engineer and loyal guard. The honeybee even does a cute hokey-pokey — the so-called waggle dance — that tells co-workers where to find food. It generously provides the only insect-produced food eaten by humans.

Over the millennia, honeybees also have become critical soldiers for the agriculture industrial complex. Pulled out of deep hibernation, bundled up and shipped all over the place, they are subjected to much stress and disease. But they get the job done. On their hairy little backs rest the worldwide responsibility for 80% of all insect pollination. The annual value of the 90 crops in the U.S. that require pollination by honeybees is estimated at $24 billion; in Oregon it’s almost half a billion dollars.

When their numbers began to plummet in the winter of 2006, the modest and generally unsung honeybee was in the spotlight. Headlines shouting “Honeybee disaster!” were followed by many stories of the mysterious CCD, colony collapse disorder, which were followed by much worry about the fate of the bee and the complete and total collapse of the food supply if the mysterious bee losses continued. The state re-funded the vacant bee researcher position at Oregon State University and Oregon’s small and politically insignificant commercial beekeepers — only about two dozen own and manage 90% of the 50,000 colonies in the state — gained new support.

Web only content: More about honeybees

pdfPacific Northwest Honey Bee Pollination Economics Survey 2009, by Michael Burgett

pdfHoney Bee Mortality in the Pacific Northwest: Winter 2008/2009, by Michael Burgett, Dewey Caron, et al

pdfU.S. Pollination Markets: Recent Changes and Historical Perspective, Michael Burgett, et al

Keeping honeybees healthy has been a longtime battle. When the Varroa mite came to North America in 1987, it decimated the population (which is native to Europe), and recovery over the decades has been hard-won. In Oregon, this is the fourth year of bee losses of 25% or higher. Researchers agree there is not just one reason, but many possible ones: bad weather, poor nutrition, stress, pesticides, weak queens, loss of habitat, and mites that have become resistant to treatment and are transmitting viruses, which is new.

“The beekeepers have been having a problem for a long time,” says W. Steve Sheppard, an entomologist with Washington State University. “So the reaction that we’ll lose our bees and they’ll cease to exist was a little over the top. But we’re doing some things differently. Beekeepers are much more aware of colony health. They’ve become better beekeepers, the more successful ones.”

It comes down to the better beekeepers. While honeybee losses are serious, there is no longer panic. Better now to worry about their human handlers because the irrefutable part of this story is that it rests on the backs of that small cadre of dedicated commercial beekeepers to keep the honeybee thriving. Without them, the honeybee most certainly would be in deeper Bandini.



 

Comments   

 
Portland Bizzy Bee
0 #1 Native PollinatorsPortland Bizzy Bee 2010-09-30 15:55:49
Nicely written article Robin. Please consider writing a postscript in the future that provides some ink to the growing domestication and use of native pollinators (e.g. orchard mason bees, horn faced bees, and leaf cutter bees).

For the past several years, some entomologists have been working with almond growers in California on the use of orchard mason bees. I know this, because that's where the bulk of my surplus bees have gone over the past few years.

Successful native bee management requires a fundamentally different approach to agriculture. Monoculture crops don't co-exist well with native pollinators. However, there are cases of growers who are creating insectaries and planting diverse crops that make their farms more hospitable to native pollinators.

A couple of entreprenueurs in Washington are working on plans to develop large scale orchard mason bee businesses. Xerces Society, which is based in Portland, is the national leader in native pollinator research
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Corner Office: Steve Tatone

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits about the president and CEO of AKT Group.


Read more...

Free Falling

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121714-oilprice-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.


Read more...

The Bookseller

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Everyone knows college is expensive, but a look at the numbers brings that into sharp — and painful — focus.


Read more...

What I'm Reading

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Peter Lizotte at ACME Business Solutions and Roger Busse at Pacific Continental Bank share their favorite reads.


Read more...

I Know How You Feel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Most smartphones come equipped with speech recognition systems like Siri or Cortana that are capable of understanding the human voice and putting words into actions. But what if smartphones could do more? What if smartphones could register feeling?


Read more...

Water World

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

Fred Ziari aims to feed the global population.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS