South Dakota Honey Bees Dying
by Tom Hanson, Anchor
July 02, 2013 7:47 PM
South Dakota's honey industry is under attack. As the number two producer of honey, behind only North Dakota, South Dakota bee keepers have doubts about the future. Something is killing the bees, and some honey producers say if they don't figure out what it is soon, they may go out of business.
Honey is nature’s sweetener, so valued it was once used as currency. It will take 12 worker bees their entire lives to make one teaspoon. Problem is there are fewer bees to make the honey. All over the country bees are dying, and so far there’s no way to stop it. Adee says nationwide the bee population has dropped dramatically.
"We had 5 million colonies here about in the late 80s, now we're down to 1.7 million and so we're going downhill," said Bruce Honey Farmer richard Adee.
Adee lost about 50-percent of the bees in his family run operation this past year. Adee has been caring for bees since he was a boy, watching and learning from his father and uncles. Right now his bees are just starting to make honey
“These will be full of honey hopefully in about 30 days”, said Adee as he held up a bee covered panel from a hive.
Adee and other honey producers spend more and more of their time and resources rebuilding their hives each year trying to recover from what is commonly called Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s called a disorder, because no one, including government scientists really know what it is. The latest theory, it's a combination viruses, parasites, a fungus and possibly even stress combined with certain pesticides
"If we don't find out the cause of colony collapse in the next two or three years, this is industry is about to go out of business," said Adee.
The demise of bees could send shockwaves through the entire ag industry. Producing honey is only part of what bees do. You see, every winter, Adee and other bee keepers are paid to ship their bees to places like California and Washington, where bees pollinate fruit and nut trees. In fact these bees will be headed for almond groves in California next winter.
“At one time it was a honey issue, but it has moved beyond honey now, you know people will say we can get along without honey, but we can’t get along without that pollination. Every third bite we eat comes from a bee pollinated plant,” said Adee.
All eyes are on Europe, where the pesticides in question have been banned. If bee populations make a comeback, they will know for certain that the pesticides are the problem.
“Long term boy I don't know, i know everybody is a little apprehensive right now about what will happen long term. Some people the industry is doomed, im not quite that far down the line yet, there's that thought running out there. I think we're going to work our way out of it, but were going to suffer a little pain” said Adee.
Colony Collapse Disorder is such a big threat, members of congress are paying attention. In fact Adee has testified in front of both the U.S. House and Senate. He believes Washington understands the severity of the colony collapse problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a plan of action; right now they are collecting data, doing lab research and supporting preventative measures like creating more bee friendly habitat.