Beekeeping has always been a delicate business, totally dependent on--and vulnerable to--an interconnected chain of events in nature. But in recent years bee populations around the country also have been under stress from seemingly intractable threats like pesticides, disease, and "Colony Collapse Disorder," the puzzling phenomenon that causes the sudden loss of entire colonies. According to Mendel, a survey last year by the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association revealed that beekeepers lose 24 percent of their bees each year--and that was before this year's weather problems. "Even some of the best beekeepers in the area are losing their hives, and it's hard to figure out why," Mendel says.
The early spring also caused a lot of buzz at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, because fruit trees were blooming a full month before the frost danger clears. Scott Robertello of Kapnick Orchards says a "freeze event" in late March that devastated Traverse City's tart cherry crop caused "very minimal damage" here, but he won't rest easy until around mid-May.
"The old-timers say a killing frost can happen till the first full moon after Easter, and that will be May sixth," Robertello says. Does he believe that? "Let's just say I'm keeping my fingers crossed."
[Originally published in May, 2012.]