Tom Gogola, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
April Lance is behind the wheel of her father’s old Ford pickup, talking honeybees as the truck bounces through the Alexander Valley en route to White Oak vineyard and winery for a "hive dive."
It’s a cool and sunny day in the valley as Lance tells the recent and troublesome history of the honeybee (Apis mellifera). She’s headed to the vineyard to check on two wooden-box hives vineyard proprietor Bill Myers has set up, using local Italian honeybees that Lance breeds and sells. Her bees, she says with pride, are known for their gentle, calm demeanor, and are raised in a chemical-free environment at her place along the Dry Creek in Healdsburg.
Lance offers many intriguing—and troubling—factoids about the honeybee, industrious apian pollinators in the great ecological cycle of life responsible for about one-third of the food humans consume. Without the honeybee, she says, we’d be eating a diet, basically, of oat gruel.
The bees have been up against the ropes since the winter of 2006–’07. That year, commercial beekeepers around the country and abroad faced an outbreak of a rare phenomenon known as "colony collapse disorder" (CCD). Beekeepers would go out to attend to their honeybees, only to find "empty hives and dead bees all around," Lance says. "There had been dips before, but the bees had overcome it," she says. "This was a massive collapse." The bee situation in Thailand is so dire that farmers there are reduced to hand-pollinating their produce.