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“Bee”ing Bee Friendly

It is not uncommon for clients to ask for referrals to bee keepers for swarms and/or colonies of honey bees that have taken up residence.  We are happy to provide referrals in these cases as we understand the concern that is circulating concerning the declining number of honey bees.  We also receive calls each year from bee keepers offering to collect swarms that are called in by concerned residents.  The following information is in response to the genuine care and concern which has been expressed by so many calls.

It seems the most common information swarming around in the news about honey bees is related to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which has numerous suspected causes, but no concrete identified sources at this time.  However, there are other problems that are affecting honey bees as well.  Viruses, parasites and other diseases are spreading to honey bees around the world.  Based on an article by Dr. Zachary Huang of Michigan State University, roughly 90% of honey bees that are observed are part of a managed colony, meaning a colony that is monitored and cared for by a bee keeper.  Feral or wild populations are slowly making a come back, but are having to overcome the Varroa mite which wiped many of those colonies out.  While others indicated that honey bee populations to decline began around the 1940s, it is the drastic rate of decline in recent years that has sparked a majority of the interest and concern.

For residents interested in helping honey bees, there are numerous ways in which to help out.  While becoming a bee keeper isn’t a practical solution for every resident, due to expense and city or county restrictions on bee keeping, it is certainly a viable option for some.  Beekeeper associations frequently hold classes to teach the basics of bee keeping and to assist novice bee keepers in getting up and running with their hives.  They are excellent sources for answering questions as well.  In addition to becoming a bee keeper, providing flowers that offer both pollen and nectar are a great source of nutrition for honey bees.  While an abundant flower population is often available during the spring and early summer, late summer and fall often lack sufficient flowers.  Collection during this time of year is important in order for a colony to survive the winter months when flowers are dormant.  This method will not only provide a food source for honey bees, it will also provide for other pollinating bees as well.  Flowers that are planted as a food source for honey bees should not be treated with pesticides which include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides as they may have detrimental affects on the visiting bees.  Yet another substantial way in which anyone can assist honey bees is to purchase local honey bee products.  By purchasing local honey and other products, you help to support local bee keepers enabling them to continue to manage their hives and sustain populations of honey bees within your area.