Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 14

C Where Are the Honeybees?
Nancy Henderson

THE INSECT THAT HAS A ROLE IN SO MANY ASPECTS OF OUR FOOD
SUPPLY HAS ONLY HALF THE POPULATION IT DID IN THE 1940 s .

ISTOCK PHOTGRAPHY / FRANKLJUNIOR

Creature
Feature

DURING HIS LECTURES, University
of Georgia entomology professor
Keith Delaplane often pretends to
hold up a McDonald's hamburger.
"Now I'm going to take away
every ingredient that a bee has pollinated," he tells his students, flicking away each imaginary item, one
by one. First to go is the hamburger,
which comes from alfalfa-and-clover-eating cattle. Next comes the
cheese, for the same reason, then
the tomato, the ketchup, the pickle
and the dill that flavored it, and the
lettuce. Finally, he says to the audience: "You're left with nothing but
the bun - minus the sesame seeds."
As national director of the
Managed Pollinator Coordinated
Agriculture Project, Delaplane
recently finished leading a four-year
consortium of scientists charged
with finding out what has caused
the U.S. honeybee population to
dwindle and what can be done to
reverse the decline. The problem
surfaced in 2006, when, according
to Delaplane, "We just sort of
reached a tipping point where we
started really noticing things."
The U.S. Department of
Agriculture's Agricultural Research
Service estimates that the number
The honeybee is critical to plants.

of honeybees, which pollinate $15
billion worth of crops annually, is
half what it was in the 1940s.
Scientists point to several factors,
including overuse of insecticides on
blooming plants, but the main
offender is an Asian mite called
Varroa destructor, which migrated
to America in 1988.
"It is, hands down, Culprit No.
1," says Delaplane. "I call the Varroa
mite the snowball that started the
avalanche. It's very, very damaging
to the European honeybees," not
only because it kills them directly
but because it spreads lethal viruses
that linger long after the parasite is
gone.
Delaplane points out that the
often-used term "colony collapse
disorder" is misleading because it
represents only one type of honeybee decline in which the baby bees
survive but the adults vanish.
As the hamburger illustration
shows, honeybees impact many
food sources, from soybeans to
sourwood honey. Even with proper
plant nutrition, rainfall and weed
control, fruits and vegetables won't
develop without these important
insects. Notes Delaplane, "The honeybee provides that initial strategic,
high-level event from which everything else depends." 

WHAT TO DO

Honeybee Heaven
To help stop the decline of honeybees, says
University of Georgia entomologist Keith
Delaplane, we can:
* Refrain from using insecticides on flowering
plants.
* Try to ignore temporary "bursts" of solitary
(uncolonized) bees in the spring. Delaplane
frequently gets calls from homeowners com14 | BlueRidgeCountry.com

plaining about the bugs "flying like crazy in
their front lawn. [People] are terrified they're
going to get stung. They can take a deep
breath and relax because these bees hardly
ever sting. They're extremely gentle. They're
having a brief mating and nesting season, and
then they disappear."
* Plant native perennials that bloom in the heat
of summer - a gardening "dead zone" in the

sweltering Southeastern states. Sunflowers,
crape myrtles, chastetrees and flowering herbs
provide life-sustaining nectar for honeybees at
a time when few plants naturally bloom.
* Support area beekeepers. "If you're buying
honey, then buy it from the local farmer's market instead of the supermarket," says
Delaplane. "And you'll be supporting your local
pollinators in the process."


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Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014

Letters / You Said It
From the Editor
From the Farm
BRC Unlocked
Mountain Report
Creasture Feature
Great Buys in the Mountains
The Hike
Festivals and Events
Country Roads
It’s Weird, It’s Wonderful, It’s Asheville!
Photoessay: The Waterfalls of Western North Carolina
Mountain Adventure: Where to Play, Where to Stay
One Day on the Parkway, 1987
Little Zoos, Big Fun
Mountain Garden
Flavors
Cabin in the Woods: The Farms Cabins and Cottages
Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Letters / You Said It
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - From the Editor
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - From the Farm
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - BRC Unlocked
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Creasture Feature
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Great Buys in the Mountains
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - The Hike
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Festivals and Events
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - It’s Weird, It’s Wonderful, It’s Asheville!
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Photoessay: The Waterfalls of Western North Carolina
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 38
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Mountain Adventure: Where to Play, Where to Stay
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 42
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 46
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - One Day on the Parkway, 1987
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Little Zoos, Big Fun
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 54
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Mountain Garden
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Flavors
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 60
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Cabin in the Woods: The Farms Cabins and Cottages
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 63
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 64
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Guest Column
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - 67
Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2014 - Cover3
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