Honeybee decline threatens a billion-dollar industry
by LINDA MARRONE
Published - 09/29/14 - 03:47 PM | 11784 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The honeybee population has dropped 50 percent in the last 50 years and is the subject of speculation on many fronts.
The honeybee population has dropped 50 percent in the last 50 years and is the subject of speculation on many fronts.
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While working in my garden, I am always surrounded by honeybees that visit the flowers. The bees and I work together, respecting each other's distance, and in all our years together, they have never acted aggressively toward me. In the winter months, when the camellias are the only flowers in bloom in my garden, hoards of bees used to fill the flowering bushes with their busy buzzing sounds that could be heard throughout the garden. In recent years, I have noticed that my garden does not have the same bee activity it used to have.

Colony collapse disorder is a mysterious worldwide problem in which entire colonies of honeybees abruptly disappear. The Agricultural Research Service says that the honeybee population has declined by 50 percent in the last 50 years. Honeybees are responsible for pollinating more than 90 different crops throughout the U.S. The work the honeybees accomplish is worth ten times the value of the honey they produce. A study by Cornell University estimates the value of the honeybee to U.S. agriculture to be approximately $14.6 billion annually.

There are many theories as to why the bees are disappearing. Some reports attribute their demise to genetically modified crops, the use of powerful pesticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis and even cell phone towers. I’ve also read that many beekeepers supplement the bee’s natural diet with high-fructose syrup as well as antibiotics and other medications to ward off diseases. Some are theorizing that the use of medications and manmade food substances maybe altering the bee's natural immune system. Their natural diet of flower nectar is filled with antioxidants that strengthen their immune system; however, fructose does not provide the same properties.

On an interesting note, most organic beekeepers are not experiencing as many problems with their bee colonies as the beekeepers that use fructose and medications.

An average honeybee colony numbers between 30,000 to 50,000. Social insects, worker bees make up most of the colony and are female, living approximately six weeks. The workers do all the chores, collecting nectar and building the hive. Drones are the male bees that live inside the hive and mate with the queen. There is only one queen in the colony, and she will live approximately three to five years. To produce a pound of honey, the colony must visit about two million flowers. A single worker bee produces about a tenth of a teaspoon of honey in her short lifetime.

That was the scenario in my garden about five years ago, when I noticed a very large population of bees building a hive. Noting they were so close to my home and neighboring homes, I contacted Brian's Bee Removal, and a specialist took the queen and about 300 bees to Brian's orchard in Redlands, where he maintains about 30 hives. A few years later, another colony decided that my chimney top would make a great home, and again, a Brian's representative came back and gave the bees a new home.

The overuse of pesticides and chemicals upsets the balance of nature and kills not only pests but also beneficial insects and birds. In the quest to develop our planet, we seem to lose sight of the importance of leaving open undisturbed land and room for home gardens to help foster insects. Sometimes, it is hard to realize that the loss of these creatures will directly affect the food supply we depend on to exist.

If you have a bee problem, consider a live removal service. Brian’s Bee Removal can be reached at (888) 659-8733.

Stories about Linda's historic home and garden have been published in local and national magazines. Take a tour of Linda's garden at LindaMarrone.com.
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