Thursday, September 13, 2007

Beefing up the bees

I knew very little “buzz on bees” until Sandi Soendker, Land Line’s managing editor, pitched the idea about doing a story on the disappearance of the honeybees last Friday at our daily news budget meeting.

Since then, I have been researching away on “colony collapse disorder” – or CCD – which could have devastating effects on our economy if the bees don’t thrive and have a good pollination season. This could also have a big financial impact on bee haulers who count on the loads of bees out to California and other states every year.

More than 1 million colonies of bees will swarm the West Coast and the almond fields in the spring. They are trucked out there early to “beef them up” for their big job ahead. Some beekeepers have reported losing up to 90 percent of their bees to CCD. Fewer bees means fewer loads of bees, as well as fewer loads of fruits and vegetables for produce truckers to haul when its harvest time.

Everybody in the food chain will be affected if the honeybees don’t have a good pollination season – from beekeepers to growers to truckers to consumers – everyone will feel the “sting” if the bees don’t have a good season next spring.

In June, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said if left unchecked, CCD has the potential to cause a “$15 billion direct loss of crop production and $75 billion in indirect losses.” That’s a lot of money riding on the performance of roughly one million honeybee colonies in the U.S.

Did you know that more than 100 fruits and vegetables, including almonds, apples, oranges, blueberries, carrots, broccoli sweet cherries, soybeans and many others – all depend on honeybees for pollination? I didn’t.

Before researching this story, I never thought about how the honeybees arrived at their destinations to do their jobs – did you?

In talking to Richard Adee of Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, SD, I found out the majority of his 80,000 colonies of honeybees are hauled on flatbed trailers. Adee supplied me with several names of truckers he works with for my story – I found many of his bee haulers are OOIDA members, including Kenny Wyman of Summit, SD.

Kenny nonchalantly said hauling bees is “just another load for him.” But, he later added, he tries to keep them happy with plenty of air flow or water so as not to anger them.

I have a new found respect for honeybees – I once thought of them as pesky insects that I tried to avoid in the past – now I am their new champion.