Bill could address declining bee population

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service – NC

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ASHEVILLE — North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill (SB 225) that would require state agencies to look for ways to increase public areas such as highway medians for flowers and trees that bees need for food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates as much as a 30 percent decline in the population in recent years, because of a variety of factors, including loss of habitat.

Apiculturist John Skinner says the recent rain and cold snaps North Carolina has experienced this spring are making things even more difficult.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com North Carolina lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase the number of habitats for honeybees in the state.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
North Carolina lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase the number of habitats for honeybees in the state.

“They have a lot more mouths to feed and if we get hit by weather patterns that are rainy for a solid week or 10 days, then the bees can consume all of their additional food in the colony and starve to death, at a time when you think ‘Hey, the flowers are blooming. It’s springtime. Everything is wonderful,'” says Skinner.

In addition to weather patterns, Skinner says parasitic mites, viruses, fungal diseases and pesticides are also impacting the honeybee population. A study released this month by Newcastle University in England finds some bees are “addicted” to nectar that contains pesticides. Pesticides are known to scramble a bee’s memory and navigation functions.

April and May are known as “swarm season” in bee-speak, when young honeybees leave their hives to form new ones. Bee City USA is a nonprofit based in Asheville with a goal of helping to preserve bees.

Founder Phyllis Styles says because the new bees have bellies full of honey during this season, it’s bees and not humans that should be afraid.

“At the very time they’re the least capable of stinging and they’re the most vulnerable that they’re out in the open, they can’t hide in their hives, that’s when people go and spray pesticides on them,” Styles says.

If you find a swarm of bees, you can call the Extension Service, which keeps a list of beekeepers willing to remove a hive at no cost in order to save the bees.

Charles Foutch has been a beekeeper for more than 50 years and says the increasing price of honey also is tempting beekeepers to over-harvest, leaving bees without enough nourishment to survive.

“They think they leave enough for the bees to survive through the winter,” says Foutch. “But if you have a hard winter you find out next spring you’ve lost some of them, so they’ve starved to death.”

You can help bees by choosing plants for your yard that attract bees such as wildflowers, flowering herbs, berries, sun flowers and more. Grouping the same plants together also is helpful to the insect. About one-third of the food eaten worldwide requires bees for pollination.

Filed in: Farm & Ag, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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