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Rick Worthington Bee Loss Report
by Rick Worthington, click here for bio

Program: Farm and Ranch Report
Date: June 06, 2018

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Beekeepers may be hearing less buzz from their hives this spring. A new survey by the Bee Informed Partnership found that beekeepers reported a 40 percent bee colony loss in the last year.

A typical colony loss is less than half that, year over year, and advocates for honeybees are concerned. Jon Zawislak is an api-culture instructor, and says the Varroa mite is a large contributor to bee loss around the country.

"It's a parasitic mite that attacks the bees and can transmit a lot of viruses and other pathogens,” Zawislak said. “And so, they weaken the bees and they compromise their immune systems, while they're giving them diseases."

In addition to mites, honeybees are affected by some pesticides.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said what's alarming about the colony loss reported in the new survey is that the data only includes 6 percent of the total managed bee colonies. It also doesn't account for bees living in the wild.

"If we merge the impacts of honeybee colonies with the decline of native bees, we've got a serious problem,” Finck-Haynes said; “because we're seeing an overall decline of critical pollinators in our environment that are critical to our ecosystem."

Zawislak said bees in the west do have a "wing up" on bees living in other parts of the country, because of the large amount of farmland.

"The beekeepers certainly benefit from all the irrigated farmland,” Zawislak said, “because the agricultural areas where we keep a lot of honeybees, they just stay a little bit greener and flowers stay in bloom for a very long period in the summertime."

Experts say even people who don't keep bees can help them by planting native plants in their yards and avoiding the use of chemicals as much as possible. Making sure you have plants that bloom in the spring, summer and fall also is helpful.

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