Monday, July 12, 2010

Beekeepers of the Heartland

Beekeepers gather in local, state, and regional groups to share the latest findings of research into honey bee health and the craft and business of beekeeping. Rita and I joined three hundred interested beekeepers in Cookeville, Tennessee for the Heartland Apicultural Society’s annual conference. All attending this regional meeting are fully aware of the stresses that honey bees are facing and listened intently to presentations involving various areas of honey bee health. The same conditions continue to challenge beekeepers across the Heartland of America: parasitic mites, viruses, Nosema disease, American and European foulbrood, honey bee nutrition, and the effects of chemicals in the bee hive and in the environment. Viruses vectored by Varroa mites, the new strain of Nosema disease, and chemical residues in the beeswax honeycomb combine to make for a deadly combination. Those attending sessions involving honey bee pest management learned that small hive beetles gain control and can easily overwhelm the bee colony when there are several generations of beetles existing in the hive at the same time. We learned that Varroa mites have developed a resistance to each of the legal miticides, and that they have even developed resistance to unlabeled treatments as well. This year’s serious incident of honey bee poisoning in Indiana was caused by insecticide-treated corn seed which contaminated dandelion pollen. Maryland’s apiary inspector brought Klinker the Labrador, a dog trained to detect American foulbrood.

Following four years of news stories about Colony Collapse Disorder there seems to be developing an understanding among the public of the important role that honey bees play through pollination service in providing human, animal, and wildlife food. There is also is a developing understanding among beekeepers of the effect of two decades of fighting deadly parasitic mites by using chemical treatments inside the bee hives. In today’s photo a honey bee visits tickseed coreopsis in bloom in the Arkansas Delta. The bee is collecting pollen from coreopsis, like dandelion, a member of the composite family of plants.

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