Rural Missouri - March 2012 - (Page 24)
Guarding the Honeybee
An uncertain future awaits this time-honored insect
“For many years, a drop in beekeeping was economic, but now it is tied to the availability of other sweeteners on the market,” says Tim Tucker of the American Beekeeping Federation. hey’ve been around for millions of years Many people have stopped using honey as a and have been supplying honey for the home sweetener thanks to access to inexpensive human race since the Stone Age, but sugar and high fructose corn sugars. there is great concern that their beneﬁts “With relatively cheap sweetener prices, we no to the world will be diminished, if not lost. With longer consume as much honey on a per-person a little help from homeowners and other conbasis at less than 2 pounds per year,” says Tucker. cerned citizens, however, there is hope for their “On the other hand, the average person will confuture — and ours. sume more than 100 pounds of reﬁned sugars in “They” are honeybees: those amazing and a year.” almost mythic creatures that possess a highly Compounding that problem are the health developed social structure and have helped susissues of honeybees. tain mankind and human society. “In the last 20 years, we have had two new Once thought to be native to South Asia, parasitic mites that have come into the country,” recent studies indicate honeybees also may be says Tucker. “The varroa mite transmits as many native to Africa and probably to all continents as 17 to 20 different viruses that affect honeybee except North America. Cave paintings and drawhealth.” ings also indicate that early on, humans recogIn addition to increased costs of keeping bees nized the value of honey. alive, low market prices of honey also have made As humans learned to domesticate honeybees, it difﬁcult to make a living from beekeeping and the art of beekeeping grew. Today, bees provide us have caused many commercial beekeepers to not just with honey but also beeswax, propolis (a cease operations. glue used in cosmetics and health supplements) Although current research indicates that the and pollination of plants. use of chemicals in home gardens and landscapes Several species of honeybees exist, but only has not contributed to CCD, homeowners can still two have been domesticated. The Egyptians were do their part to help save these crucial creatures. among the ﬁrst to do so and believed honey “The main thing homeowners can do is to played a critical role in their social, economic and plant beneﬁcial ﬂowers and native trees and spiritual lives. Only one species (Apis mellifera) is shrubs that provide nectar for honeybees and used extensively for domestic honey production photo courtesy of Scott Bauer, USDA native pollinators,” Tucker says. “We work to eduand pollination. USDA entomologist David Gilley introduces a new queen to a cate the public to accept a lower level of perfecOn average, a well-managed hive will contain honeybee colony after a swarm of Africanized bees attacked the tion in their yards and gardens and use less herbi50,000 bees during the peak of the mid-summer hive. North American honeybee hive numbers are declining due cides and pesticides that can affect pollinators.” season. Annually, bees from one hive can gather to unknown diseases, parasitic mites and predatory problems. Clovers and dandelions provide nectar to bees. up to 80 pounds of pollen in a year and produce While this makes for a less perfect-looking lawn, more than 100 pounds of honey. it is more natural and beneﬁcial to bees and other agricultural practices, new viruses and pathogens Honeybee species generally visit ﬂowers to collect pollinating insects. and the possible effects of any combination of these pollen — their source of protein — and are responNative wildﬂowers and white clovers are wonderfactors. Extreme weather during the past decade that sible for an estimated 80 percent of all plant pollinaful additions to yards and landscapes and can prohas resulted in impaired pollen production from tion. This service is valued in the billions of dollars. vide lots of pollen and nectar. Shrubs such as spirea, plants also could be contributing to the dwindling Without it, many commercial and homegrown food blackberries and blueberries can be beneﬁcial as well. bee population. crops would be greatly reduced. Hawthorns, crabapples, Kentucky coffeetree and Another contributing factor to the declining In 2007, honeybees made national news because other fruit-producing trees also are valuable assets to honeybee population could be the fall of beekeeping nearly 50 percent of North American hives colyour landscape. popularity. lapsed. This sudden and unprecedented decline was Information about native plants based on what named colony collapse disorder (CCD). Researchers your landscape or garden calls for is available have yet to ﬁnd a speciﬁc cause of CCD, though through the Missouri Department of Conservation’s many scientists suspect it is a syndrome caused by Grow Native! Program at www.grownative.org. a combination of factors rather than a single Homeowners can certainly take up beekeeping. pathogen or poison. Beekeeping classes and information about starting Included among those your ﬁrst hive are available through the Univerfactors may be loss sity of Missouri Extension Department or the of habitat, Missouri Beekeepers Association. changes in “If beekeeping is not feasible, homeowners can still help by providing locations for beekeepers to place bees, especially on the outskirts of towns and suburban environments but also in the A honeybee rests countryside,” says Tucker. on an apple So what’s the course of action should a swarm blossom. of honeybees show up on its own? Because photo courtesy of they can pose a threat to people and animals, Jack Dykinga, USDA Tucker suggests calling a local beekeeper to have them removed. With the help of humans, the buzz of the honeybee can be something future generations can enjoy. by Tim Tucker firstname.lastname@example.org To learn more about honeybees and beekeeping, visit University of Missouri Extension online and search “honeybees” at www. extension.missouri.edu. To contact the Missouri Beekeepers Association, visit www.mostatebeekeepers.org.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2012
Rural Missouri - March 2012
Stickin’ to it
Out of the Way Eats
Spending to save
Guarding the honeybee
Hearth and Home
Callaway’s kingdom dinner
The comical curator
Rural Missouri - March 2012
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