For many people, the mention of bees brings up thoughts of annoyance and fear. Bees make nests around our homes, buzz around us in the garden, and occasionally sting us.
Though bees might seem like pests, they play a very important role in the environment because of their role in the pollination of plants.
An estimated one-third of the entire human diet can be traced back to bee pollination, according to University of Georgia Extension Service bee specialist Keith Delaplane. Bees are responsible for pollinating around 130 agricultural plants in the United States.
The estimated annual value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is more than $9 billion, and more than $70 million in Georgia. Georgia has about 75,000 bee colonies and about 2,000 commercial and hobby beekeepers.
The beekeeping industry each year generates $70 million in Georgia through the sale of honey, beeswax and bee sales.
Our state ranks 14th in the nation for honey production. Georgia is also second in the U.S. in queen bee and packaged bee production.
These are bees raised to be shipped all over the world to start new colonies and pollinate more crops.
Knowing the key role bees play in agriculture, it’s important that we take the necessary steps to conserve their populations.
When spraying insecticides, wait until the afternoon; bees are most active from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. Bees can be easily killed off by pesticides meant to control other insects.
Many people with fruit trees at home unknowingly reduce local bee populations from improper timing of insecticidal sprays.
This leads to low pollination rates of the trees, and fruit production can be drastically reduced as a result.
Another concern this time of year is bee swarms. When honey bees fill up their hive or a pest overwhelms the hive, a group of bees or the entire bee population will leave the hive.
The group of bees forms a swarm, and congregate in a large ball on a limb or other object.
The bees will stay there until a new place is found to live.
This can take a few hours to a few days for them to relocate. Please don’t kill honey bee swarms if found. In the Columbia County area, there are beekeepers who will collect these bees free of charge.
Please call the Extension office if a swarm of honey bees are spotted and need to be removed.
Conserving the honey bee population is needed due to the declining numbers throughout Georgia. Remember, honey bees are needed to pollinate more than $70 million of Georgia’s annual agriculture and also the backyard garden. There are many hobby beekeepers in Georgia.
It can be a fun and challenging hobby. Like all endeavors in the garden, it can take a lot of patience.
Fortunately, there are several local beekeepers in the Columbia County area who are more than willing to share their experience and knowledge with those who might be interested. If interested in beekeeping, visit the Clarks Hill Beekeeper Association Web site at www.clarkshillbeekeepers.org.
The Columbia County Extension office, at 6420 Pollards Pond Road in Appling, will hold an egg candling class on May 1, presented by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Participants need to sign up for two-hour blocks of time starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m.
The blocks will be limited to 12 people.
Call Bradley or Deborah with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to sign up for the class at (770) 535-5955.