The buzz about honey bees is that their population is still in danger.
Recent data from the Bee Informed Partnership shows honey bee populations continue to decline.
Just this past winter, statistics showed a 37.7% decline in managed honey bee populations — bee colonies kept by beekeepers. This is the greatest reported winter hive loss in 13 years.
Honey bees are an essential part of the environment and critical in maintaining the livelihood of plants.
“Many plants cannot reproduce without pollinators. Some are dependent entirely on honey bees, but even if there are other pollinators for that plant, those are suffering from the same problems of insecticides and lack of food. Many plants will become extinct without pollinators,” explained Michael Bush, honey bee expert and author of “The Practical Beekeeper, Beekeeping Naturally.”
A loss of the honey bee would be a critical hit to our food supply.
“There are lots of produce that depend on the pollination of the honey bees and others. Almonds and apples are just a few among many,” said Joan Bradley, secretary and treasurer of the North Central PA Beekeepers Association.
What is putting our bees in danger? “They are poisoned directly or indirectly at every turn,” Bush noted. Insecticides are one of the major culprits, killing them outright, while herbicides kill their food supply and fungicides kill the fungus they need to ferment the pollen. Some fungicides have also been known to alter the foraging behavior of bees.
“Then there are new parasites every few years,” noted Bush.
One mite particularly deadly to the honey bee is the varroa mite, an external parasitic mite that attacks and feeds on the honey bees, causing the disease varroosis. The varroa mite can only reproduce in a honey bee colony, with significant infestations leading to the death of an entire colony. To combat the destruction caused by the varroa mite, Bush recommends beekeepers use foundationless hives.
While the situation for honey bees is critical, Bush offered several suggestions the average citizen can do to help. “When bees see a yard with nothing but grass they see a desert. Plant white clover. Don’t kill dandelions. Plant flowering trees. Don’t spray insecticides. Don’t spray herbicides.”
He also recommends planting a pollinator garden, which is a group of nectar and pollen producing plants arranged in a way that attracts pollinators, such as bees. Seed mixes for pollinator gardens can be purchased through seed companies.
Bradley said some people are even turning their backyards into flower gardens. “This not only helps the pollinators but also saves a person time by not having to mow and saves money — no gas for the mower. One prime benefit is to have flowers blooming all summer in your yard,” she explained.
If you find a swarm of honey bees on your property, call in a rescue group to help relocate them. “Our club has a honey bee rescue group that you can call when you have honey bees on your property, especially a swarm,” noted Bradley.
Another way to show support is to purchase honey and other products from local beekeepers. “Honey bees not only produce honey, but also pollen, royal jelly, beeswax and propolis. All are found in everyday items on the shelves,” said Bradley. “The next time you purchase a jar of honey think about all the work that goes into that jar of honey, not just the honey bee, but also the beekeeper.”
Local groups, such as the North Central PA Beekeepers Association, which covers Potter, McKean, Tioga, Cameron and Elk counties, work diligently to raise awareness by offering educational sessions, hosting guest speakers, advocating for research and running educational booths at events.
“Right here, our club works endlessly, attracting new members and teaching about honey bees. We try to educate the public about bees and their importance,” explained Bradley.
The public is invited for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear bee expert and author, Michael Bush speak, ask questions and purchase his books on Oct. 26 from 9 to 4 p.m. at Gunzburger Auditorium, 1 North Main St., Coudersport (side entrance off Walter Street).
Lunch will be provided for the event, which is sponsored by the North Central PA Beekeepers Association.
The cost to attend is $15 per club member and $20 per non-club member. Reservations must be received by Oct. 11 for the cheaper rate. Those received Oct. 12-18 will cost $25 per person. No reservations will be accepted after Oct.19. Seats are limited, so respond ASAP.
Checks can be made payable to North Central PA Beekeepers Association. Include your telephone number or email address on the check.
Mail all checks to Joan Bradley, PO Box 635, Shinglehouse, PA 16748.
For questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 814-697-7586.
For more information and ways to get involved, visit the North Central PA Beekeepers Association website at ncpba.weebly.com.