I find it perplexing the most obvious cause of colony collapse is disregarded; the culture of bees as migrant slaves to a poisoned monoculture system. Bees today are kept together in huge numbers, have their food stores robbed, and are shipped around the country to poisoned fields. Disease and pests rapidly infest these closely packed and genetically similar populations.
Bees quickly succumb to disease and pests due to incredible exposure levels and weakened resistance. Beekeepers then apply chemicals in an attempt to control the pests, but the pests reproduce in hours and by the millions. Evolution is rapid. Resistant pests then rapidly spread through the population. Most bee pests are now resistant to conventional treatments. The most common approach to preventing colony collapse is ironically medication. More naturally designed and ventilated hives are slowly taking hold and play a role responsible bee keeping. However, it is the environment and manner bees are kept, not their home that is the primary culprit.
The solutions? Stop enslaving and robbing bees. Bees should be kept in limited numbers and bee “trafficking” for commercial pollination should be made illegal. If a farmer wants to reap the benefits of bees he must work for it. He cannot use the bee colony like he might a tractor. Repairing bee colonies is not so simple; neither is utilizing one. One must keep a healthy habitat available for them year round. That means flowers during the entire growing season and natural protection in winter. It means keeping pesticides out of a suitable quantity of forage habitat. It does not mean carefully calculating how much can be pilfered from the colony without outright starving them to death.
These of course are not things most modern farmers can provide for their bees, and why would you keep bees if you couldn’t steal all their honey? The rewards are obvious to anyone who has successfully kept natural bees. Natural bees are healthy, vigorous, and not afraid to demonstrate their strength.
Pollination is a great benefit to keeping bees; but the reality is that bees have an important role in all ecosystems. We should keep bees as part of our responsibility to the land we manage. Bees are one of the best indicator species we have on our farm and what they reveal to us is alone enough to justify their existence.