Declining Bee Population Stings Local Honey Producer

(SIOUX CITY, IA) Bee keepers, honey producers and farmers are starting to feel the sting.

The bee population has slowly been declining since 2006 but it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says there are many factors that could be impacting bee health.

Experts say Colony Collapse disorder is a disease that's contributing to this unusual fall in the population of honey bees. Other factors range from weather conditions to parasites and a
major area of concern is the use of pesticides.

There's nothing like the sound of buzzing bees. It's a sign of progress - flowers being pollinated and honey being made.

But if all the bees were gone...

"We'd have pretty flowers on our apple trees but they'd never produce any apples," says Bill Huser, Vice President of Research Development at the Sioux Honey Association.

In fact, if bees didn't exist you could pretty say goodbye to all kinds of fruits.

"When they enter the flower to gather the nectar they're brushing up against the pollen that the flower produces and as they go from flower to flower they're carrying that pollen on their body," he says.

It's a process many farmers rely on to get a decent sized crop. The female worker bees are the ones who frantically search for nectar to bring back to the hive. But since 2006 a drastic number of bees haven't been returning. It's a mystery that is affecting many industries including honey producers like the Sioux Honey Association.

10 years ago the US produced 200 million pounds of honey but because more bees have been dying off the U.S. only produced 147 million pounds in 2012.

Several factors could be affecting the bees, poor nutrition and parasites are just a few. But a major one could be the use of pesticides.

"There are some systemic pesticides that are in current usage or used in the last couple years where the seed is treated with the pesticide and as that plant germinates and grows then the pesticide stays with the plan during that time," says Huser.

Another factor? Genetics.

"Over the years bees have been bread to be more tame and higher producers of honey and when they have zeroed in on those two traits they may have reduced their disease resistance or some other factors that make them more hearty," he says.

The Colony Collapse Steering Committee will take a look at the USDA's research and come up with a plan of action that will outline what the next step is to keep the bee population from declining further.