manuka honey, testing, pesticides

The way Robbie Bell, a local beekeeper in Florida, sees it, there are three major threats to bees right now. Bell if a full-time beekeeper, so he is forced to drive thousands of miles every year to keep his beekeeping business thriving. He has moved his hives off Highway 640 by a reclaimed phosphate mine because of the ideal situation it presents for bees. The area has little traffic and there are plenty of Brazilian pepper trees for the honey bees to pollinate. The bees won’t be hear all year, though, as Bell will travel all the way to California when the Florida season is over.

Keeping the Hives Thriving

Bell estimates that he has more than 100 hives, each with about 60,000 or so honey bees in them. Sadly, he already knows he will probably lose about 40 percent of those bees in the coming months due to a variety of reasons. Bell stated, “We’re seeing the collapse of the beekeeping industry. After our year is over with – I say our year is from January to the first week of June – we lose 40 percent of our operation. You can go have 100 hives here in June, and I can guarantee you, 40 to 50 of them will be dead in a month.”

Three Problems for Honey Bees

Like most other beekeepers, Bell is dealing with Varroa mite problems. This, in fact, is the one problem he hopes to figure out soon, as he believes if they can get the Varroa mite problem under control, it will make dealing with the other problems far easier and more manageable.

The second big problem Florida beekeepers are facing is what Bell called “citrus greening.” Small insects shut down the tree’s sap when they produce a bacteria that is then transferred to the tree. This specific problem has dramatically cut back on orange blossom honey, something that used to be readily available in the area, so much so, in fact, most roadside stands sold it throughout the state of Florida (but not anymore).

Finally, there are neonicotinoids. This is a complaint we have heard from many beekeepers, and Bell is no different. He stated, “The new pesticides, the neonicotinoids, are really — they’re playing havoc with this industry. The residues from these sprays, and also we’re finding out, and the fungicides are messing up the bee’s guts. They can’t process their food and stuff.” Dan Raichel, an attorney for the National Resources Defense Council added, “Neonics are incredibly toxic to bees and other insects. Since the introduction of neonics, U.S. agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to bees and other insects. And 92 percent of that increase is said to be attributable to neonics alone. The neonic coating on one corn seed has enough active ingredient to kill about a quarter-million bees.”

Even with these problems, Bell keeps a very positive attitude about the future of the industry. He stated, “I think the future’s good. We’re praying that we could come up with some solution to the varroa mite. If we could do away with the varroa mite, I think we could deal with the pesticides a little better.”

Source: WLRN Miami | South Florida

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