Disappearing bees growing problem for crops

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

May 22, 2007

AIKEN, S.C.---It's a major "buzz kill" for local farmers, and it's a problem facing crops nationwide: the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of thousands of honey bees.

Tonight Aiken beekeepers met to talk about that and other issues.

There is a bee shortage, and that's not good, because bee pollination is said to account for about one-third of all the US crops.

Local beekeepers in Aiken are hoping to spread the buzz around town about what you can do to help with the shortage.

"Most of our food stuff is pollinated by bees," said Robbie Byars of the Aiken County Beekeepers Association. "Albert Einstein was quoted as saying that if we lose the honeybees, the human race would fall within 4 years."

For Byars, beekeeping is a way of life. He's dedicated a lot of his time and energy to preserving the bee population and is very passionate about them.

Honeybees are the most important insect to the human food chain. They are the principle pollinators of hundreds of fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

Byars has over 40 bee hives himself, but says there is a serious bee shortage nationwide and here in Augusta. After we suited up to get a closer look at the bees, Byars explained why they're so important, now more than ever.

"Even though it would affect our vegetables, it would affect a large amount of animal feed," he explained. "Now they have what's called Colony Collapse Disorder."

Colony Collapse Disorder is also known as Sudden Colony Death. It refers to the mysterious die-off of seemingly healthy honeybee colonies. It has been largely afflicting commercial and private beekeepers since late 2006.

"You go out to a hive one day and its populace bees working like they should, you go there the next day and the hive is empty, the bees are gone. There are no dead bees, they're just gone," Byars said. "Each bee in her lifetime will make 1/12 of a teaspoon (of honey) in her entire lifetime, and it takes over a million flowers to make one teaspoon of honey."

That's why Byars says it so important to be mindful and remember the importance of the bees. He says one thing we can do to help is be careful around bees.

"You're killing off the bees when you spray the flowers. You're killing the bees, which is what helps your flowers grow, which helps your seeds," he said. "If you see a bee, don't kill it, let it go unless there's a problem with small children. Leave it alone, let it go."

Byars says large bee losses are not unheard of or even uncommon. In fact, they have been reported numerous times in the past. But researchers have reason to believe they are dealing with something new, or at least something that is previously unidentified, that's causing this shortage.

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  • by Amanda Location: Aiken, SC on Jun 11, 2007 at 12:10 PM
    I have a major honey bee problem. Hundreds of honey bees are swarming around an area of my house that probably extends to the inside of my house. With this information about the importance of the honey bee population, I would like to contact a professional honey bee keeper to safely relocate the honey bees. Does anyone have any contact information?
  • by Va Location: Smyrna, Ga on Jun 7, 2007 at 12:18 PM
    I also noticed the drop in the number of honey bees visiting my white clover, etc. in my yard in the last few years and have become somewhat worried about it. (Though I still see a good number of other bees and wasps.) I have wondered if systemic poisons on flowering plants weakens/kills the bees after so much exposure if it is in the nectar, etc. That would apply to any humingbird, insect, etc. that uses flowers to exist. Though I rarely used systemics (or a herbicide) now because of potential environmental contamination, I especially will not use in on flowering shrubs, etc. now. It is also probably a combination of just too many environmental obstacles for the bees to overcome including now the drought in Ga - no rain - no blooms. Every day you see in ads to 'KILL ALL THE INSECTS'. I hate these ads. They send out the wrong message just for the sake of profits. If we kill the bees - we kill ourselves. Knowledge is a major key to reversing this problem.
  • by Pete Location: Queens, NY on May 27, 2007 at 08:54 PM
    a large array of frequency waves, becoming ever more powerful are affecting the bees antennas, just like the global positionioning satalites give directional information to tom-toms and other gps's. it has been proven that other species have senses sharper than humans to predice earthquakes and tsunamis. Are the bees sensing a danger? Time will tell. Pete
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