The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have added seven species of bees to the nation’s endangered species list as of October 1st, 2016. Despite the commonly held opinion that honeybees and other bees are in danger of going extinct, Virginia Tech researchers theorize that the native Hawaiian yellow-faced bees do not reflect other bee statuses around the globe or provide accurate measurements to scale from, and the public should not be concerned about species extinction.
Beekeeping has become a growing craze over the last few years. At Virginia Tech, for example, a growing group of enthusiasts are working to teach people how to protect native bee populations and how to start beekeeping. Mark Chorba, an apiculturist (someone who raises bees), is the former president of the New River Valley Beekeepers’ Association, and he admits that his first thoughts on the news of the yellow-faced bees going on the endangered species list was that it was a sly attempt to propagate bee culture and secure the safety of more bees.
Chorba believes that in the past few weeks, media shows have skewed bee coverage to fit an agenda rather than demonstrating the provided science. One of the major discrepancies is that yellow-faced bees have been referred to as a type of honeybee. “They call everything a honeybee. The majority of people don’t know what a honeybee looks like,” Chorba said. “It’s just public awareness of what the bees actually look like and what they can do.”
James Wilson, a Ph.D. student in Virginia Tech’s Entomology Department, defended his dissertation on pollinators, pests, and their influence on gourd production in Virginia. He was hired as the new apiculturist, and he wants to spread awareness about differences in bee families. Although the honeybee is in a different classification, both Chorba and Wilson agree that the publicity is a blessing for bees and shows the frailty of native bees can be researched to possibly find long-term prevention of extinction.
In the 2000s, many media reports said colony collapse disorder helped raise awareness to stop the destruction of U.S. bee colonies. The repopulation of bees is some proof that the Hawaiian yellow-faced bees have the potential to thrive in a decade. “We still have the problems with pesticides. We have parasites like Tracheal Mites and Wax Moths that new beekeepers get into, and these things get infected, but other than that, it’s doing pretty good,” Chorba remarked. “I am finding bees now, more so out in the wild, where ten years ago they were non-existent.”
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