MW-DE058_beekee_20150124223839_MGOrin Johnson, a second-generation beekeeper in California, has started to consider a life without his 500 colonies of honey bees. At 67, he doesn’t work as fast as he once did, and yet his bees require greater amounts of time and money to maintain. A near constant barrage of threats, from pesticides to parasites, wiped out more than half of Johnson’s colonies last year. “The costs are just getting out of hand,” he said. “I’m getting tired of it.” Plenty of Johnson’s colleagues are in the same boat. Increasing numbers of beekeepers, who are generally in their 50s and 60s, are considering early retirement or are being forced out of business as honey bees continue to die at alarming rates. For nearly a decade, beekeepers have been losing roughly 30% of their bees each winter, above the 19% depletion rate they say is sustainable, according to the Bee Informed Partnership, a group funded by the Agriculture Department to study bee health. While beekeepers can replenish their colonies by splitting and repopulating healthy hives, it is hard for them to recoup the costs of doing so. “We’re not worried about the bees going extinct,” said Dennis van Engelsdorp, a bee researcher at the University of Maryland. “We’re worried about the beekeepers going extinct.” The government doesn’t track employment statistics on commercial beekeepers, but the White House cited particular concern over the fate of professional beekeepers when it created a task force in June to address bee deaths. More