I'm only the messenger and don't necessarily know that he has all the answers (personally I think Michael Bush has all the answers!)
This is what I got from what he said:
**Honeybees have been on a steady decline in this country over many, many years, due increasingly to our agricultural practices no longer requiring animals to feed in the fields, so less crops for the honeybees.
**With the advent of the varroa mite, beekeeping went from an organic, hands off endeavor to a chemically dependent endeavor. This has resulted in
- The quality of queens going down, with many queens living only 6 months - 1 year; finding drone brood among worker brood, and having high supercedure rates. (He had a chart showing that with increased use of chemicals in the hive, a study done at UGA showed shorter life for queens.)
- Poorer life span and sperm quality for drones
- Increased cognitive dysfunction for worker bees, including not being able to find their way home to the hive.
He encouraged us to buy our queens from people working to develop hygienic queens such as the Purvis Brothers in N Georgia. The University of Georgia is also working on developing hygienic queens which will be available for distribution to queen breeders in August. They will, of course because it is a research university, not be for sale but will be distributed by lottery, I think he said, to the queen breeders.
He also laughed at himself in his earlier books in which he highly encouraged medicating the bees and said that he is the author of the new edition of First Lessons in Beekeeping from Dadant out later this year and in this new book he encourages IPM and no chemicals.
The issues contributing to bees disappearing from hives (CCD) are some not in our control (environmental pesticide usage, the presence of mites in the world, viruses, etc). However the issues that we can change include:
** In hive pesticide use
** Old comb
** Migratory stress
** Nutritional deficiencies
** IPM (Integrated Pest Management)
He encouraged using no pesticides in the hives and replacing old comb regularly.
He said that migratory stress is about how the honeybee in one setting works about 6 - 10 weeks per year during the honey flow. Commercial beekeepers by moving their hives from flow to flow ask the bee to work many 6 week periods in the year, thus wearing the bees out and making them more subject to disease.
He mentioned a commercial beekeeper in N Georgia (Bob Binnie) who feeds each hive 5 gallons of syrup every fall and Dr. Delaplane said that we are not feeding our bees enough, thus resulting in poor nutrition and this makes the bees vulnerable to disease.
He strongly encouraged IPM - screened bottom boards, powdered sugar shakes.
He cited studies done at UGA for all of what he had to say and presented graphs and data to support his talk. In general he doesn't think that CCD is anything new, but is the cumulative result of chemical beekeeping.
A kid in the audience asked if cell phones were the problem and he smiled and simply said, "No."