For the last couple of years I've been regularly reporting on the problem with bees dying in unprecedented numbers and whole colonies collapsing. Go here, here, and here for previous installments in this ongoing story.
The latest news is that it is suspected that a pesticide, known as neonicotinoids, is making the bees much more susceptible to disease. The Independent reports:
A new generation of pesticides is making honeybees far more susceptible to disease, even at tiny doses, and may be a clue to the mysterious colony collapse disorder that has devastated bees across the world, the US government's leading bee researcher has found. Yet the discovery has remained unpublished for nearly two years since it was made by the US Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory...
The American study, led by Dr Jeffrey Pettis, research leader at the US government bee lab in Beltsville, Maryland, has demonstrated that the insects' vulnerability to infection is increased by the presence of imidacloprid, even at the most microscopic doses. Dr Pettis and his team found that increased disease infection happened even when the levels of the insecticide were so tiny that they could not subsequently be detected in the bees, although the researchers knew that they had been dosed with it.
While bees on one front are endangered by industrial chemicals, there are some promising developments in the world of beekeeping, which is fast becoming the next wave of interest in the local food movement. It's apparently very hip for restaurants and hotels in NY City to have their own bee colonies on the roof, and then market the honey to the customers. One recent story the NY Times reported that the rural flight of bees closer to the city has brought some unexpected results. In one case it led to Brooklyn bees discovering a maraschino cherry factory as a source of sugar, which packed the honey combs with Red Dye No. 40.
It's also more common for people in residential areas to keep bees. If you're interested in exploring beekeeping, the Inland Empire Beekeepers Association is offering a class starting February 26. Currently the County does not allow any beekeeping in residential areas, but the City of Spokane does. Here's their link to local zoning and regulations. Once again the County, which should be much more friendly to traditionally rural pursuits is behind the curve.