The bald eagle appeared on Independence Day, The Fourth of July, in a nearby rice field. What a fitting sight of the national symbol on the holiday commemorating the 1776 declaration of the founding of the United States of America! The next day the adult eagle with snow white head and tail dove into the Peace Farm lake adjacent to our queen bee evaluation yard to catch a fish. Bald eagles are recovering from near local extinction in the South. We have been seeing them in the area for the past four years, but this is the first time we have seen one on our farm. The eagles declined drastically in decades past largely as a result of their absorbing insecticides and environmental chemicals through their diet. Now we have honey bees declining in numbers, and insecticides and environmental chemicals are suspected as contributing to their decline. Just as chemicals are stored in fat tissue of eagles, chemicals are stored in the beeswax comb of bee hives. The loss of either eagles or honey bees can serve as indicators of the health of the environment. The recovery of their populations is a measure of the resiliency of each species. When they are restored, they will be considered a success for our conservation efforts. Meanwhile, the eagles and honey bees tell much about the condition of the environment.
In the photo we see a non-chemical approach to controlling parasitic Varroa mites, dusting the hive with powdered sugar. The sugar causes the mites to lose their grip on the bees as well as encouraging the bees to preen and remove mites. Other Integrated Pest Management measures that can be considered safer for the honey bees and the environment include the use of resistant honey bee stocks, screened bottom boards, removable drone combs, vegetable oil patties, and the use of less-harsh agents like organic acids and thymol for Varroa control. Diligent beekeepers and chemical users are making conditions safer for eagles and honey bees.--Richard