According to the USDA, the United States currently has 2.6 million honey-producing bee colonies. That many bees is producing more than a million pounds of raw honey.
But the role of bees goes far beyond a food source and the insects are dwindling.
“No bees no plants, no plants no people. It’s just that simple,” Agroecologist/Blue Dasher Farm Manager, Jonathan Lundgren, said.
The equation may be simple… but the solution is not.
Beekeepers across the nation are seeing unprecedented losses to their colonies. Many believe it’s due to one main culprit.
“The simplest answer to why the bees are dying is agriculture, and that’s not to say that farming is bad for bees, or for humans, right? Farming is really important, but it’s how we farm,” Jonathan Lundgren said.
Blue Dasher Farm, near Estelline, researches new techniques for farmers to use that won’t be as harmful to bees.
“What we need to do is reform agriculture, and what’s being called regenerative agriculture, is the way to do that,” Jonathan Lundgren said.
Because if the bees die off, experts say so do we.
“We all have a roll to play in this solution. This isn’t just a beekeeper problem. This is affecting each and everyone of us,” Jonathan Lundgren said.
“Honeybees are known primarily for their honey, but their untold story is pollination, and without honeybees or some of the other pollinators that aren’t seen, our food supply drops drastically,” Adee Honey Farms Co-Owner, Brett Adee, said.
Bees pollinate more than flowers and a few crops.
“About one out of every three bites of food is due to insect pollination, in our diet,” Brett Adee said.
With tens of thousands of hives, Adee Honey Farms, in the town of Bruce, is proud to be the largest bee farming business in the U.S. Co-owner Brett Adee says only one third of the hives they have in this warehouse are out due to the decrease in the bee population.
“For a decade and a half our losses were minimal, they didn’t show any difference than what we had done for the previous 30 years. Then starting in about 2008 bee losses started increasing dramatically nationwide,” Brett Adee said.
After generations of keeping bees, Adee farms knows just what to do to keep these bees alive, while also harvesting their honey.
“We know how much honey we have to leave on the bee hive and how much we can take away, and so when they have the surplus honey we take that away,” Brett Adee said.
These boxes are manipulated to work as a hive in nature.
“Bees always live in the bottom boxes and they’ll store honey above them. Just as nature, to conserve energy, so when they’re warm and alive giving off energy, or heat from being alive, they heat up the next meal,” Brett Adee said.
But bee keeepers say people can help nature too.
“Take a conscious effort of where the bees are and what they’re doing around the bees so they don’t have a negative impact on something so beneficial to the farming community and the environment as a whole,” Brett Adee said.
For advice on how to help the bees, click here.