Path Home Shows 2011 Show Archive July 2011 Show 1127 Plight of the Bees

Plight of the Bees

We travel to Kiowa, Oklahoma, to find out the real reason why honey bees are disappearing.
Plight of the Bees

Beekeeper

For more information visit this link:

Oklahoma State Beekeepers Association

Show Dates

Show 1127: Plight of the Bees

Air date: July 3, 2011

 

Transcript

COURTENAY DEHOFF:  THOSE BLACK AND YELLOW BUGS THAT CAN BE A STINGING NUISANCE NOW HAVE A NUISANCE OF THEIR OWN.  OKLAHOMA BEEKEEPERS SAY THEY ARE FIGHTING TO STAY AHEAD OF THE BATTLE, BUT FIND THEMSELVES GETTING STUNG.  JOINING ME NOW WITH MORE IS OUR ANDY BARTH.

ANDY BARTH:  THAT’S RIGHT COURTENAY.  THE HONEY BEE INDUSTRY IN THE UNITED STATES IS SUFFERING FROM MITE AND PESTICIDE DAMAGE THAT IS COSTING SOME PRODUCERS TO LOSE UP NINETY PERCENT OF THEIR HIVES.  WE TRAVELED TO KIOWA, OKLAHOMA, TO SEE JUST HOW BAD THE DAMAGE IS.

ANDY:  IT’S NOT UNCOMMON TO SEE THEM BUZZING AROUND OUR GARDENS.  BUT THE PLIGHT OF THE HONEY BEE MAY SOON CHANGE THAT; AND, THE OKLAHOMA BEEKEEPER MAY BE IN FOR A STING.

KEITH AMASON:  MOST BEEKEEPERS DON’T LIKE THE WORD AGGRESSIVE WHEN IT COMES TO THEIR BEES. THEY USE THE WORD DEFENSIVE.

ANDY:  KEITH AMASON IS A BEEKEEPER IN OKLAHOMA AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE OKLAHOMA STATE BEEKEEPER’S ASSOCIATION AND SAYS THERE IS MORE THAN ONE REASON FOR HIVE LOSS.

KEITH:  SEVERAL THINGS. IT’S MORE OR LESS A PERFECT STORM OF SEVERAL AILMENTS, UH, PESTICIDES BEING ONE OF THEM.  THE PESTICIDE DEAL REALLY HURTS US.  PESTICIDES THAT ARE REAL BAD IS ANY POWDER FORM OF PESTICIDE THAT STICKS TO THE BEES’ LITTLE HAIRS AND THEY CARRY IT BACK TO THE HIVE.  THE SPRAYS USUALLY WILL KILL THE BEES IN THE FIELD AND THEY DON’T CARRY IT BACK TO THEIR HIVE.  YOU’LL LOSE BEES THAT ARE OUT WHEN THEY’LL SPRAY.  BUT THEY DON’T CARRY IT BACK TO THE COLONY; WHICH MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE.

ANDY:  ANOTHER ISSUE FACING THE HONEY BEE INDUSTRY IS SOMETHING THAT PESTICIDES CAN ACTUALLY FIX, MITE INFESTATION; BUT WHAT KILLS THE MITES, KILLS THE BEES.

KEITH:  THEY’RE A LITTLE TINY THING YOU CAN SEE THEM ON A BEE BUT YOU DON’T UNLESS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THEM YOU DON’T SEE THEM. AND UM YOU COME TO A HIVE THAT’S BEEN DOING WELL AND ALL OF A SUDDEN IT GOES INTO DECLINE, AND ONCE A HIVE GETS WEAK FROM THE MITES, THEN THE MOTHS MOVE IN, AND THEY’LL FINISH OFF THE HIVE.  THEY’LL TEAR UP THE COMB AND THAT SORT OF THING. AND THE OLD BEEKEEPERS BACK IN THE 80’S THOUGHT IT WAS THE MOTHS ACTUALLY KILLING THE HIVES UNTIL THEY DISCOVERED IT REALLY WASN’T; IT WAS A TYPE OF MITE THAT WAS WEAKENING THEM.

ANDY:  AND THESE TINY CRITTERS HAVE A MASSIVE AFFECT ON HONEY PRODUCTION.

KEITH:  THE MITES CAUSE A DRASTIC REDUCTION IN HONEY PRODUCTION.  THEY KEEP THE HIVES WEEK ENOUGH TO WHERE WHAT THEY’RE DOING IS JUST TRYING TO SURVIVE.  AND IT’LL CUT THE HONEY PRODUCTION JUST NEARLY TO ZERO AT TIMES.

ANDY:  AND SCIENTISTS SAY THE DECLINE IN HIVE POPULATION WILL IMPACT THE PRICE OF FOOD, AN IMPACT THAT COULD AFFECT THE ENTIRETY OF AGRICULTURE.

PHILLIP MULDER:  THE IMPORTANCE OF BEES IN THIS STATE AS WELL AS IN THE NATION IS THAT BEES AFFECT ABOUT EVERY THIRD BITE THAT WE PUT IN OUR MOUTH, OF FOOD.  SO, VERY IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF OUR OVERALL CONSUMPTION OF FOOD.

ANDY:  ENTOMOLOGIST PHIL MULDER.

PHIL:  FROM THE STANDPOINT OF OKLAHOMA PROBABLY THE MAJOR CROP THAT WE WOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT FROM A BEE POLLINATION STANDPOINT WOULD BE ALFALFA.  AND WE HAVE SOMEWHERE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF 350-450 THOUSAND ACRES OF ALFALFA ACROSS THE STATE.  AND ALFALFA IS AN IMPORTANT FORAGE CROP, A VERY IMPORTANT FORAGE CROP, FOR OKLAHOMA.  IT’S THE QUEEN OF FORAGES.  AND IT PRODUCES A LOT OF HAY THAT GOES INTO ANIMAL PRODUCTION, THAT’S CONSUMED BY ANIMALS, AND IT ALSO HELPS TO MAINTAIN SOIL.  AND THE BEES LOVE IT AS A POLLINATION AND NECTAR SOURCE.

ANDY:  AND IT’S NOT JUST ANIMALS, HUMANS MAY ALSO FEEL THE STING AT THE GROCERY STORE CHECK OUT COUNTER.

PHIL:  BEES ARE A VERY IMPORTANT SOURCE OF THE CONSUMABLES THAT WE LOVE TO EAT.  YOU KNOW, FRUITS, VEGETABLES, THINGS THAT ARE GOOD FOR US.  AND THE BOTTOM LINE IN TERMS OF AN ECONOMIC IMPACT AS BEES BECOME PERHAPS LESS COMMON AND POLLINATION BECOMES MORE OF A PROBLEM, THE PRICE OF FOOD INCREASES DRAMATICALLY; SO, IF IT DOESN’T HIT YOU IN WHAT YOU LIKE TO EAT, IT’LL HIT YOU IN YOUR BOTTOM LINE, WHICH IS ECONOMICS.

KEITH:  THE LONG YELLOW ONE; THAT IS THE MOMMA OF EVERY BEE IN THE BOX.

ANDY:  SO WHILE BEES MAY NOT BE THE MOST POPULAR BUG AROUND, THEY SURE HAVE BEEKEEPERS BUZZING TO KEEP THEM SAFE.

ANDY:  NOW, ONE LOCAL BEEKEEPER LOST ALL BUT 2,000 OF HIS 13,000 HIVES.  EACH HIVE IS WORTH ABOUT $250, WHICH ADDS UP TO MORE THAN TWO MILLION DOLLARS IN BEE HIVES.

COURTENAY:  SO ANDY, WHAT WILL THIS DO TO THE HONEY PRICES?

ANDY:  WELL, COURTENAY, INPUT COSTS ARE CONTINUING TO RISE AND SUPPLY IS CONTINUING TO FALL, SO WE CAN EXPECT THE HONEY PRICES TO RISE SIGNIFICANTLY.

COURTENAY:  ALRIGHT, AND WHAT CAN BEEKEEPERS DO IF THEY SUSPECT MITE OR PESTICIDE DAMAGE?

ANDY:  WELL THE OKLAHOMA STATE BEEKEEPERS ASSOCIATION WEB SITE IS GREAT FOR INFORMATION.  AND WE HAVE A LINK TO THAT SITE AT OKHORIZON DOT COM.

COURTENAY:  ALRIGHT, THANK YOU ANDY.