This article about the growing problem of bee rustling contained one quote that irked me:
The arrival of hobbyists isn’t something that many commercial beekeepers welcome. Some commercial beekeepers actually blame hobbyists for the loss of bees and say that colony collapse disorder is really a case of “piss-poor beekeeping.” Joe Romance, for example, refers to them as “the Birkenstock crowd.”
Colony Collapse is a confusing and contentious issue, sure, but even leaving that aside, there is simply no way hobbyist beekeepers are more harmful to bee health than the large scale commercial operations. I call rubbish.
Anyone familiar with epidemiology and basic evolutionary theory should recognize that large commercial beekeepers- not the small guys- have created a perfect set of conditions for a bee public health disaster:
1. Commercial beekeepers truck millions of hives across the continent, ensuring any disease that shows up on our shores is spread across the continent within months.
2. Some commercial beekeepers import queens from other continents, ensuring both a steady stream of new pathogens and a dilution of any native genetic resistance to existing diseases.
3. Commercial beekeepers keep hives in much denser concentrations than bees live in the wild, ensuring easy spread of pathogens among hives and favoring the evolution of more virulent strains.
4. As in other systems of intensive agriculture, most large beekeepers deal with disease problems using blanket chemical treatments that favor the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria and insecticide resistant mites.
We aren’t going to come to grips with bee health issues until we recognize the central role of commercial beekeeping in creating them.