Numbers of managed honey bee colonies plummeting

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - According to the USDA, the total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased by 2.5 million since the 1940's. Experts blame Colony Collapse Disorder for the disappearing bees, but are still looking for a cure. They say awareness is the first step.

Keith Steller and his wife Jessica own Steller Apiaries And Farms in Jackson where they maintain and observe several colonies of honey bees.

"The queen is in the middle," explained Keith. "They're retaining about 97-degrees in the middle of that ball."

They say twenty to sixty-thousand honey bees support a queen, her hive, and the human diet.

"Without bees, we're really dramatically affecting our food source," said Jessica. "They pollinate eighty to ninety different varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts,"

The bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by humans, making its decline all the more devastating and gaining the attention of big companies. Buzz the bee flew off of Honey Nut Cheerios boxes in Canada, and Burt's Bees promises to plant one thousand wildflowers for every retweet.

On a smaller scale, the Stellers keep with alternative hive constructions, designed to raise more bees with less emphasis on honey.

"It's much thicker than a conventional hive because bees like to live in trees," said Keith.

The Stellers only harvest honey in the springtime--after the bees have made it through winter, and only to give the industrious insects something to do.

"We center around keeping for the bee as opposed to for the beekeeper," explained Jessica.

The cause of colony collapse disorder is still a mystery, meaning the more beekeepers the merrier.

If you'd like to learn more about how the Stellers are helping bees, visit their website:

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