Trouble in the hive – bee talk accents issues

MANATEE — Sarasota resident Betsy Roberts, a master gardener, is concerned about dwindling bee populations.

She isn’t alone, and her reason is simple.

“We’re not going to have food to eat,“ Roberts said, “because we keep losing bees.”

Colony Collapse Disorder, where the bees leave their hives, never to return, is one of the major factors that has led to a global concern for honey bees.

The Manatee River Garden Club is inviting the public to learn more about bees on National Honey Bee Awareness Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The free event includes a virtual hive, classes on beekeeping and gardening and honey to taste. The Manatee River Garden Club is at 3120 First Ave. W., Bradenton.

The event also is to make people aware that pollination by bees accounts for one-third of food that’s produced, according to Deb Coupland-Porter, a master gardener helping coordinate the event.

“We want them to learn more about honey bees and show them how honey goes from the hives to the bottles you see in stores,” Coupland-Porter said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand how that happens.”

She added that the most important thing gardeners can do is use practices that don’t harm honey bees. Possibly a big problem with Colony Collapse Disorder is in the misuse of pesticides. “A lot of pesticides might not kill bees right away,” she said, “but certain times, like the product ‘Sevin,’ if a bee gets into it and brings it back to the hive it can kill the whole hive.”

Although wasps, butterflies and various birds are also a pollinators, they’re no match in terms of quantity for bees. Between 50,000 and 60,000 bees can pack a hive.

Bethany Allen-Ford, president of Florida’s Suncoast Beekeeper’s Association, said the transfer of bees from one place to another is just one of the stresses bees have been facing in recent years. For example, commercial beekeepers might move bees from Florida for citrus, to Maine for blueberries and finally to California for almonds. “It’s all about money,” she said.

Allen-Ford said gardeners seem to be using increasingly more pesticides. “And it all depends on when they spray,” she said. “They could be spraying in the afternoon, rather than the suggested time of early morning or late evening, when bees come in.” Allen-Ford said the farmers must spray in such a way to keep crops viable.