I heard about the recent decline in honeybees, and I wanted to find out if there was anything that homeowners could do to support local bee populations. I interviewed two apiculture professors (that’s professors of bee science) and found out that there’s a lot that homeowners can do to help local bee populations thrive.
What’s going on with bees?
“The honeybees have been declining since the 1940s, so in some sense it’s nothing new,” said Dr. Keith Delaplane, a professor at the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee program. “What is new is the rate of that decline. In the past three winters, we have seen just a precipitous drop that really caught our attention. It’s kind of a bad thing gone worse,” he said.
Dr. Delaplane attributes a few factors to the sudden decline in honeybees. One is “the results of global mixing of organisms. It’s very easy for somebody to travel to France and bring a honeybee queen back and use it to re-queen one of their beehives back home. It’s illegal, but it happens quite a bit. It’s very easy to imagine how new viruses and parasites can be transported around the world that way. I think that is one of the leading things. We’ve had decades of that with beekeepers traveling around the world and bringing back bees and restocking their hives with a queen from Timbuktu or something. It’s not the bees, per se, it’s the viruses they accidentally introduce that way.”
“There’s all sorts of bee viruses and diseases that are global,” said Dr. Delaplane. “They’re pretty much everywhere now because of the manifested movement. So we have exotic bee parasites from Asia, and bee parasites from Europe, and they’re all here on our bees now.”
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