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Honey bees play an important role

Posted: October 13, 2013 - 12:00am

For many people, the mention of bees conjures thoughts of annoyance and fear. Bees make nests around homes, buzz around in the garden, and love salt-water pools as a water source. 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. Georgia ranks 14th in the nation for honey production. Georgia is also second in the U.S. in queen bee and packaged bee production. These bees are shipped all over the world to start new colonies and pollinate more crops.

Knowing the key role bees play in agriculture, it’s important to 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 p.m. Bees can be easily killed by pesticides meant to control other insects.

Many people with fruit trees unknowingly reduce local bee populations by improper timing of insecticidal sprays. This practice can be detrimental for fruit farmers because it leads to low pollination rates of the trees, and fruit production can be drastically reduced as a result.

During this time of year, bees are getting ready for the winter. Honey bees are trying to produce as much food (honey) to ensure the colony will survive the winter months. During this time, honey bees may be seen in several unusual places. The Extension office has received several complaints about bees in or around salt-water pools. Bees prefer salt-water pools to other water sources. Remember, as the temperatures continue to fall, bees will become less active and remain in the hive to overwinter. Given the importance to agriculture as a whole, the benefits of protecting the bee population outweigh reasons for controlling them. The best advice is the old saying, “if you leave them alone they’ll leave you alone.”

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 that 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.

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