Help Save the Honey Bees

When Beth and Karl were young, they could not walk across the front lawn in their bare feet for fear of stepping on a honey bee.  Now, it is rare to see a honey bee.   Tracheal mites were first detected in the continental United States in 1984.  The varroa mite was found in Florida and Wisconsin in 1987.  Between these two parasites, the feral population of honey bees in the United States has been wiped out.  Farmers and gardeners could no longer depend on free pollination from wild colonies.  The loss of the feral colonies also affected pollination in the wild.  In 1998, the small hive beetle from Africa was discovered in Florida.  This pest can quickly overwhelm and destroy a managed colony.  Finally, something new has emerged that is killing honey bee colonies.  It is not yet known what is causing the collapse of colonies, but there is some indication that poor bee nutrition may be a factor.  Because commercial beekeepers must move their hives from farm to farm, the honey bee is not able to obtain the stores of pollen and honey necessary for good hive health.  This is not the best of times for honey bees.  In short, the honey bees are dying.One third of our food supply is directly pollinated by honey bees.  Additionally, the ability to control pollination gives to the farmer the ability to control the timing of the harvest.   This gives to us cheaper and more plentiful fruits and vegetables.

Why should you care?

The loss of honey bees is causing a pollination shortage in the local ecology.  The resulting shortage of food for wild life would effect the populations of birds and animals.  Should the honey bee collapse, much of the better part of our food supply would go with it.

What can you do?

Buy local honey.  The local beekeeper provides pollination for the area surrounding the beekeeper’s hives. By supporting local beekeepers, you are supporting the pollination of the ecology where you live.

Let the weeds grow.  A well manicured lawn is a wasteland for bees and other pollinators.  If you must have a manicured lawn, have beds of food plants for the bees and other pollinators.

Buy local and, if possible, organic food.  One of the problems with commercial farming is large fields of a single crop creates the same desert as a well manicured lawn.  Local small producers will plant a variety of food plants giving the honey bee better nutrition.  By purchasing organic food, you are decreasing the use of pesticides.

Do not buy foreign honey.  Contaminated honey is one of the means of transmission of disease.  Honey bees are notorious robbers of honey.  If there is honey available and undefended, honey bees will find a way to get to it.  If honey carries the spores of a disease, a honey bee will carry it back to her hive and infect the entire colony.

Never spray flowering plants with pesticides.  If you must use pesticides, use as little as possible and only in accordance with the instructions on the label.  

If you find a swarm or have honey bees in the walls of your home, call a beekeeper to collect them.  These honey bees are survivors and we all need their genetics.