These bees are some of the lucky ones.
Recently purchased by Nash, they were born in the South — far from Michigan’s pounding, unsympathetic winter that claimed the lives of millions, possibly trillions, of bees. The Spring Lake Township man estimates he lost nearly 60,000 bees, a drop in the honey jar compared to state and national numbers that are still being compiled.
“I lost them all,” said Nash, who lives in the quaint Strawberry Point neighborhood. “I had hoped they would get through it. They had a lot of honey, but the length of the winter was part of it.”
According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture beekeeper survey, 23 percent of colonies nationwide died this winter. But that isn’t as bad as the eight-year average of 30 percent, according to the federal agency.
Parasites, disease and pesticides also sting the bee population.
It remains to be seen if the winter bee deaths will have an affect on pollination and fruit and vegetable production this summer.
Last year, Nash’s bees produced about 80 pounds of honey. This year, he may need to switch to jam for his toast.
Nash purchased one colony last month and currently has about 15,000 bees.
“I’ll probably get nothing this year,” he said of his honey production. “I will have to build them back. By next year, if they make it through the winter, it should be fine.”
Holland Area Beekeepers Association President Don Lam estimates that 90 percent of hobbyists suffered a complete loss of bee crop this winter. He said he’s never seen it so bad.
“Winter was too long, too cold,” Lam said. “The bees just couldn’t survive because they didn’t get the breaks they needed.”
To read the whole story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.