“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.” Albert Einstein
There seems to be a lot of buzz about bees lately. The size of bee populations is dropping, with many unanswered questions about what is causing bee colonies to simply disappear. In fact, a recent survey found that 31.1% of the managed honeybee colonies in the United States were lost during the winter of 2012/2013. That’s an increase of 9.2 points in losses from the previous year. So why do we care…? Because without the pollination of food crops grown to provide for the nation’s population and for animal feed, we would not be able to produce enough food to meet the nation’s or the world’s growing needs.
Scientists believe that much of the decline is due to Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, which refers to the unexplained disappearance and dying of honeybee colonies. Little is known about CCD, and that has many beekeepers, farmers and the general public worried. There could be several reasons as to why this may be happening: monoculture agricultural practices, loss of habitat, pesticide use, climate change, unspecified fungal diseases or mite infestations.
Bees are not the only pollinators, other insects including wasps and hornets also move pollen from one flower to another so new fruit can be formed, and pollen is also spread by the wind. But some products such as almonds, alfalfa, avocados, cotton and peaches, can only be sufficiently pollinated by insects, primarily honeybees. Other important crops produced in Mississippi that require bees for pollination are squash, watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, apples, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and the list goes on. The monetary value of honeybees as commercial pollinators in the U.S. alone is estimated at about $15 billion each year. Imagine the impact on agriculture if the unassuming honeybee disappeared entirely from the American landscape.
The practice of honey collection and beekeeping dates back to the stone-age, as evidenced by cave paintings.
Today, honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.
Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.
Honeybees represent a highly organized society, with various bees having very specific roles during their lifetime: e.g., nurses, guards, grocers, housekeepers, construction workers, royal attendants, undertakers, foragers, etc.
The queen bee can live for several years. Worker bees live for 6 weeks during the busy summer, and for 4-9 months during the winter months.
The honeybee hive is perennial. Although quite inactive during the winter, the honeybee survives the winter months by clustering for warmth. By self-regulating the internal temperature of the cluster, the bees maintain 93 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the winter cluster (regardless of the outside temperature).
Bees are attracted to white, yellow, blue or purple flowers. Bees also need a variety of sizes, ranging from big sturdy flowers for the bumblebees to small delicate ones for the sweat bees. Timing is also important – for example, bees need some flowers to be steadily in bloom from the time the bees first crawl out of their winter nests in early spring until they go back in late fall.
How You Can Help
Help keep bee populations thriving by: • Adding bee-friendly plants to help increase native honeybee populations. • Reducing the use of herbicides and pesticides in your backyard. • Buying local honey.
To view a short, but compelling documentary, “Dance of the honeybee” by Peter Nelson and narrated by Bill McKibbon, that first aired on PBS’ Moyer and Company, April 19. 2013, visit www.billmoyers.com/segment/”dance-of-the-honey-bee.”
Make Mine Mississippi Honey Producers
Want to find some Mississippi honey from a farm near you? The following beekeepers are members of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce program Make Mine Mississippi program. To qualify for this program a Mississippi entity must produce, process and/or manufacture at least 51% of their product in Mississippi.
Archey’s Honey Farm Ellisville, MS 601-477-8785
Beelicious Honey and Wee Three Bees Apiary, LLC Hattiesburg, MS 601-447-4658
Bee’s Best Honey Columbus, MS 601-272-8341
Breeze Hill Farm Raymond, MS 601-373-7432
Burch Honey Farm Grenada, MS 662-226-2869
CAPT-V Pure Honey Columbia, MS 601-736-6495
Crown Honey Florence, MS 601-845-3386
D. D. (Del) Sparks Jackson, MS 601-372-8257
Goss’ Apiary Brookhaven, MS 601-835-1927
Graves Family Apiary Clinton, MS 601-925-4364
Leaf River Honey Farm Hattiesburg, MS 601-582-7028
Lovie’s Honey Foxworth, MS 601-736-4633
Matthews Honey Crystal Springs, MS 601-892-0244
Matt’s Honey Farm Foxworth, MS 601-736-8760
Pennington Farms, Inc. Pearl, MS 601-939-5994
Powell & Sons, Inc. Vance, MS 662-326-3648
Russell Apiaries Bolton, MS 601-866-4500
Strickler Apiaries Moss Point, MS 228-588-3847
Tom Wright Vicksburg, MS 601-638-2420
Tubbs Apiaries Webb, MS 662-375-9966
Wesley’s Hobby Honey Foxworth, MS 601-736-3272
Make Mine Mississippi currently has 30 product categories including honey. Look for the Make Mine Mississippi seal when you are shopping and support the many fine Mississippi growers and producers.
For more about bee keeping and honey production in Mississippi, visit www.mshoneybee.org, the official site of the Mississippi Bee Keepers Association.