And thanks to all beekeepers! I apologize if, in not realizing you knew about bees, I offended you in any way. I'm always talking to people about the issue. I've found that most are unaware of how serious a problem it is, and some only think of bees as making honey, unaware of their role in our food chain. I certainly did NOT mean to demean the efforts of those trying to replenish the bee population. We need more of you! I only fear that if we don't change the practices causing the problems to begin with, it won't matter. (This includes artificially-bred queens, as per a comment I left above.)
I took a course on biodynamic farming & gardening, which has a section devoted to beekeeping. The beekeeper smoked the hive with non-poisonous sumac, which did not cause the bees any respiratory distress to make them angry. It just alarmed them, causing them to investigate the source of the fire and look to find a suitable place to relocate should that be necessary. Our class was able to inspect the hive close up without any kind of protection. The beekeeper said the bees wouldn't go after us, fully occupied as they were either scouting out the fire or gorging themselves on what might be their last meal for a while; but that if anyone was afraid of bees, he should stand back, as bees could sense that. One person did. The rest of us had our noses just inches away from hundreds of bees.
It was amazing to see the bees so close up, check out the eggs in the bottoms of those beautifully-formed cells, and search for the queen. We finally found her, surprised that a queen didn't really look all that different from the other bees. The experience was awesome.
It was through that course at the Pfeiffer Center that I learned about the honeybee crisis. Perhaps you've heard of Spikenard Farm Bee Sanctuary. It's in Virginia. (I know of it because its founder had previously founded that biodynamic farm in New York where I took the course.) Raised entirely naturally, the bees are doing well! No foulbrood or any other of the typical problems. I think you'll appreciate as much as I do their beautiful photo gallery of bees. (Click on any picture to start the slide show.) Our class sponsored a hive there. I hope to one day visit. http://www.spikenardfarm.org/beegallery.html
It's heartening to hear that there is a new beekeepers association in your area because of all the new beekeepers there. I wish all of you success!