Honey bees disappearing; Nevada unfazed

Published: Mar. 23, 2016 at 7:24 PM PDT
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A vital source of our food production may be in danger. Honey bees are disappearing nationwide, but is it affecting Nevada?

There's not a harder worker than the honey bee. It literally works itself to death.

"Our current agriculture depends on honey bees," said Jeff Knight, state entomologist.

About 35 percent of everything we eat is pollinated, but those key pollinators are disappearing.

"The has been a decrease in bee colonies in the United States. There's been an overall decrease for a number of years.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total loss of bee colonies from 2014-2015 was the second highest annual loss to date. (Total annual losses were 42.1 percent for April 2014 through April 2015; that's up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014.)

Knight says part of the problem is from the stress put on by the beekeepers.

"Beekeepers need to manage their hives more closely and make sure they have the proper nutrition and water."

In Nevada, he says amateur beekeeping is actually helping them thrive in the high desert.

"We never saw any sharp declines, in fact over the last few years, we've seen a dramatic increase in a number of colonies and the number of hobbyist bee keepers that we have."

With fewer hives to keep track, beekeepers like Tom Stille of the River School Farm are able to help preserve the bees' lives through a process called sanctuary beekeeping.

"Allow them to swarm, don't take their honey in the winter time, and give them lots of nectar and pollen plant around their environments, protect them from wind and animals."

It's not just honey bees that pollinate. With them disappearing elsewhere, it has forced farmers to look at alternative resources.

"We have other things that do pollination. We have over 3,000 species of bees in Nevada and they're all good pollinators," said Knight.

Some factors that have contributed to the decline of honey bees are climate change, genetics and certain types of pesticides. The Nevada Department of Agriculture has developed the Pollinator Protection Plan to keep pesticide sprayers and beekeepers in constant communication; that way, colonies have a better chance of surviving. By law it's up to the beekeepers to notify the pest control companies that they have bees in the area.

Crops like wheat, corn and rice rely on wind pollination so they don't need to rely on honey bees. You can help keep the bee population thriving by planting flowers like daisies, sunflowers and fruit plants.