Saturday, June 1, 2013
Bees and Dandelions
There is a great deal of interest in my community about raising honeybees. Although the days of large alfalfa fields have passed with the days of the livestock farmer, there are areas of nearby fields that provide good forage for hives. There are also good responsible beekeepers who know the science of caring for bees.
Recently an article was published regarding the nationwide problem of colony collapse which gave great hope for Kansas beekeepers. Apparently, the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study to determine the cause of honeybee decline that yielded some important information. In searching for causes of the problem, researchers found multiple culprits. Among them were parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. The hopeful part for Kansas came in the report conclusions, indicating that Kansas beekeepers are not experiencing colony loss at the same rate.
It is the belief of Kansas researcher Chip Taylor that this is because Kansas colonies are tended by amateur beekeepers rather than commercial ones. Our bees are not transported for pollination purposes and instead are kept at home. This, he believes, minimizes the stress on hives, makes them less likely to be exposed to pesticides, minimizes the nutritional issues, and helps in controlling mites and disease.
Local beekeepers Barb and Richard indicate that the last two years have been difficult on the local bee colonies, largely due to problems associated with the heat and drought. Some of the new hives required additional feeding due to low forage availability and some simply weren’t able to survive the lack of nutrition.
While local farmers are assisting beekeepers with better farming practices, it is important that all of us, perhaps especially urban residents, remember the impact of herbicide use. Bees need early forage and yellow dandelions and other early blooming plants that thrive in our yards provide some of the first pollen available. We would do well to help pollinators out and NOT spray them.
They too, are a part of the urban wildlife.