Honeybees and Pollination

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By titanoutlet March 28, 2011 08:00 Updated

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The preferred choice for farmers of Agricultural Tracks

With one in every three bites of food on the American plate coming from bees, everyone needs bees. Media reports have made much of the decline of honeybees, one of the most recognizable pollinators. About one third of bees are lost each year costing farmers and beekeeper thousands of dollars and hours of time. While Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been reaping a lion’s share of the media attention, it is only a one of many causes of honeybee loss.

So what causes Colony Collapse Disorder? Researchers have found that CCD is most likely caused by a combination of a virus and a fungus in hives that are also infected with a bee parasite called Varroa. This generally wipes out a hive leaving the queen, larvae and food stores intact while the adult bees just disappear.

In 2010 beekeepers suffered some of the greatest number of hive losses ever with nearly 40% of hives dying and most died from natural causes like poor forage and bad weather rather than the more glamorous CCD which accounts for only a small percentage of losses. This continues an alarming trend in recent years that may lead to a time in the near future where we don’t have enough honeybees for commercial crops.

So what is a farmer, or food consumer for that matter, to do?

There are a number of simple things that everyone can do to help save honeybees.

First, use fewer or more targeted pesticides. Bees are insects and such are affected by insecticides. Think outside the box for application of pesticides as well. Some can be applied at night. Alternatively you can contact local beekeepers who can block their hives during pesticide application. Even when this may not be feasible on your farm, try growing your home garden organically.

Second, offer diverse forage. If you have a hedgerow or field that is fallow, either let native forage grow or plant something like clover or another cover crop with pollen and nectar. If that is not practical, let the dandelions grow in your yard. They can be a key pollen source for honeybees in the early spring.

Third, support local beekeepers. Small hobbyist beekeepers are not included in most of the statists put out by state and federal governments. Few small apiaries are having trouble with Colony Collapse Disorder although they are often just as affected by weather and lack of forage. These apiaries may become the engines of pollination in the very near future. Support these beekeepers by hiring them to do smaller pollination work, purchase their honey, or become a beekeeper yourself.

Finally consider helping out with honeybee research. Become a citizen scientist through projects like the Great Sunflower Project and map the location of honeybees http://www.greatsunflower.org/.

These are easy ways you can become a friend to the honeybees and help to ensure a sweet future for all of us.

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Michele Bennett Decoteau is an award-winning beekeeper and producer of honey. She started with one hive that earned the dubious honor of being called Worcester County, Massachusetts’s most aggressive bees thru her own faults, some Africanized genes, and lots of bad luck. While those bees were mean, they made beautiful honey earning Michele her first blue ribbon at the local county fair. Currently she maintains a blog on her bees at www.bluehivejournals.blogspot.com and edits non-fiction when she can’t be in the hives.

titanoutlet
By titanoutlet March 28, 2011 08:00 Updated
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