Alliance of local beekeepers promotes bee conservation amid losses in commercial beekeeping

Bees are responsible for pollinating about a third of the world’s food supply, but the honey bee population has declined rapidly over the past twenty years, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. .

A local group called the Central Coast Beekepers Alliance SLO works to help the honey bee population.

“So this is my apiary or my apiary, this is the professional term for where we keep bees,” said Erin Holden, president of the Central Coast Beekeepers Alliance SLO. She takes care of more than twenty different bee colonies.

Holden’s group hopes to encourage people to get into beekeeping, and the group also provides resources for people to remove beehives from their homes without killing the bees.

“Commercial beekeepers are the ones who really help pollinate our food sources,” Holden said. “For a backyard beekeeper, you probably don’t have a big impact in the food industry, but the little person keeps the industry going.”

According to a report from the Bee Informed Partnership, commercial beekeepers in California reported a 30% loss of their colonies in 2020.

Holden said there are several reasons bees struggle: one is the near-constant state of drought that California faces, with a reduction in water affecting the plants that bees use to. collect the nectar. Another growing threat is the Varroa mite, a pest that ravages bee colonies around the world.

“The biggest threat to our bees at this point is the Varroa mite,” Holden said. “It’s a tiny, tiny mite that feeds on every stage of the bee’s life. So whether it’s a larva, a nymph, or an adult bee.

Holden said the parasites feed on the fat of the bees and slowly weaken them. Mites can also transmit a virus called Deformed Wing Virus.

“Which can literally stop a bee from flying and scavenging for nectar,” Holden said. “So the Varroa mite is something that we as beekeepers have to come to grips with.”

Another problem in the bee world is that people destroy the hives that appear on their properties.

“If they’re way up in a tree and they’re not bothering anyone, I would just say leave them alone,” said Atascadero beekeeper Michael Lindsey.

If a beehive is in an area near your house that is too close for comfort and you call a company to remove it, but Lindsey said ask what method they are using to get rid of the beehive.

“They can come and spray a pesticide and it kills the bees,” Lindsey said. “Then the neighborhood bees like in a tree somewhere, they will come and loot this hive which has been sprayed with pesticides. Then they will take this pesticide into their hive, then it will kill these bees.”

There are several companies in SLO County that can remove a beehive, but Lindsey encourages the use of ones that gas the bees and try to relocate them instead of killing them. If you’ve noticed a beehive and want to walk around your house, Lindsey said, don’t wait too long to take care of it.

“Because if they stay for a long time, they’ll build a lot of combs, store a lot of honey,” Lindsey said. “There will be a lot of bees and it will be a much bigger project.”

Holden said it was not a good idea to try and remove a hive without professional help, especially since some bee hives can be Africanized bees, also known as ‘”Killer bees”.

“They are very aggressive. So you’ll have a lot of bees coming up to sting you, ”Holden said. “They’ll chase you longer if you try to get away from them, they’re much more persistent, and they’ll travel further to attack you.”

Holden said that while honey bees sting in self-defense, killer bees mobilize as an entire colony if their hive is attacked. But while their temperament has earned them a bad reputation, Africanized bees perform a useful function, as they also pollinate plants.

If a bee walks into your car or buzzes around you in public, Holden said to stay calm and wait for the bee to fly away.

“Can I kill any insect?” They all have a purpose, ”Holden said.

If you get stung, take out the sting as soon as you can. Lindsey said using something with a sharp edge, like a credit card, to scratch the sting should do the trick.

“The stinger on a bee, it’s barbed like a hook,” Lindsey said. “So when a stinger comes in, the beard holds it and the bee pulls away and it leaves that stinger in you with a bag of venom, and that bag of venom keeps pumping venom into you.

Lindsey said that despite unwanted bites or beehives appearing in the wrong places around your home, bees are the world’s smallest farm workers, pollinating 80 percent of crops grown in the United States.

Saving the bees, said Lindsey, means saving the food we enjoy.

About Sherri Flowers

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