Bee population buzzing ever lower

By: By Katelin Gandee - Staff reporter

LAURINBURG — Around two-thirds of food that people consume is somehow connected to honeybees from pollination. So with large numbers of bees reportedly dying this past winter, what can be done to help save the bees?

Recently the numbers for how many bees were lost in the state during the winter showed that 42 percent of the population died over the winter, according to BeeInformed.

According to Scotland County Master Beekeeper and owner of the Wagram Apiary Jeff Stone, the numbers are usually in the high 30s ever since the 1990s because of Varroa Mites infecting bee colonies.

The Varroa Mite is an external parasite that attacks the bees and the bee eggs. The mites suck the blood from the bee and weaken and shorten its life. The infected brood can end up being deformed and untreated infestations can kill entire colonies.

Already in North Carolina there is a bee shortage. Currently, there are around 260,000 honeybees in the state but an estimated 500,000 are needed to help pollinate the crops grown.

“We’ve set ourselves up for a problem,” Stone said. “Farmers have to bring in bees from other states and there’s always the possibility of the bees harming the North Carolina bees.”

He said some out-of-state bees can be carrying the Varroa Mites, since many pollinators don’t check or treat for the mites as hobby beekeepers do, thus hurting the honeybees already in the state.

The spraying of chemicals and pesticides has also hurt the bee population. While Stone does understand why farmers spray weeds to keep from stealing the plant nutrients, he hopes farmers can find a balance that is safe for bees — but he does want to encourage people not to spray pesticides to kill insects around their homes.

“We like bees but they’re an insect just like a mosquito,” Stone said. “If you’re spraying to kill (mosquitoes) what you’re using is going to harm the bees as well.”

Stone also said another reason for the decline is that the food source for the bees is declining with people no longer planting gardens like they used to. With a lack of flora, there would be no pollination and the plants are different than what they were several years ago.

“To those who don’t keep bees, the bees need everyone’s help,” Stone said. “If you can, plant flowers and trees for bees — you’d be doing your part and helping everyone else too.”

Some bee-friendly plants include lavender, rosemary, English Daisy and sage.

Currently, Stone has around 150 hives in Scotland County that are producing honey with bees looking for plants to help with pollination.

Katelin Gandee can be reached at 910-506-3171 or [email protected]

By Katelin Gandee

Staff reporter