I noticed the article regarding the bee swarm in the June 8 edition. I also am a local beekeeper. I wanted to thank the Standard for placing the article front and center on the main page.
Our country is facing a crisis in terms of the death of feral bee populations. This has been a good year for beekeepers in that the light winter, experienced in our area as well as many other States, helped in reducing the expected loss of over-wintered colonies. A typical year might bring a mortality of no less than 30 percent of our managed bee colony populations. Feral, or wild colonies, fare even worse.
Honey bees here in the United States are not native to our continent, having been brought over with the first Americans from Europe. Through the efforts of beekeepers they were able to expand through our country. Now, in the our time, we are facing the eradication of unmanaged colonies through unknown sources, as well as known sources such as parasitic mites. With the efforts of small scale beekeepers, as in the colonial days, we may very well bring back the feral bee population.
Why are honey bees important? Because of the pollination of plants we depend upon for food. The best example that comes to mind was a more recent documentary I came across on television. In China there is a region that produces the majority of pears. Elderly people were interviewed. One gentleman was on a ladder, with a small brush and jar of pollen, painting the fruit blooms by hand with the brush and pollen. He commented he did not know what they were going to do as the younger folks seemed uninterested in self-pollinating the crops. He added there are no bees and the ones that are brought in are dying.
Small scale beekeepers outnumber commercial beekeepers. Small scale beekeepers appear to be leading the way in helping stop the total loss of our bee populations while the commercial, or larger scaled operations, concentrate on moving thousands of managed bee colonies to States such as California to pollinate the almond trees, or apples, or watermelon and many other crops we all consume each day. The honey bee is the only insect from which we harvest a consumable crop, that being the actual honey.
Our country, and for sure the metropolitan area, will see more managed bee colonies tended by small scale beekeepers. The beekeeping club I belong to is among the more successful clubs. I can speak for all us beekeepers in thanking your readers for tolerating having managed bee colonies nearby. Hopefully the swarm that was photographed in the paper was from a feral colony rather than a managed colony.
If anyone knows a beekeeper, ask them to introduce you to their hives! It will be a rewarding experience.
By Standard Staff • StandardStaff@leaderpress.com