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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a Master Beekeeper! Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Keith Delaplane speaks to Bee Club on Honeybee Decline


In the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers' Association, we are so lucky to have frequent access to Dr. Keith Delaplane. Tonight he spoke to the monthly bee meeting on "Honey Bee Decline and Why it Matters."

I love to hear him speak and always learn something. The University of Georgia has received a grant of $4.1 million dollars to study the decline of the honeybee and Dr. Delaplane is the chief investigator for the grant.

Tonight he wanted us to understand why it is important to be concerned about the plight of the honeybee. When asked why they are interested in raising bees, the top of the list for most beekeepers is honey production. Much lower on the list is the honeybee function of pollination. However, pollination and the role of the honey bee in it is key to why we should be concerned about the decline of the honeybee population.

While there are many vectors of pollination: the wind, gravity, water, bats, monkeys, wasps and butterflies, bees have the highest rate of pollination over all of these.

Bees are ideal as pollinators. They are hairy all over and in addition their hairs have split ends which encourages pollen to stick to them. Bees tend to visit flowers in succession, which makes them great vectors for pollination as they seek out what they really came for: the plant's nectar.

Keith had graphs showing the decline in honeybee population. However, as the honey bee population goes down, the acreage in this country planted in crops that need to be pollinated has gone up. This creates a losing equation. In addition, honey bees are less in the pollination business because there is habitat loss and change in the environment. And today's agriculture is machine based rather than animal based so less forage crops are planted.

He put up an interesting chart from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization showing that crops that are not bee pollinated are the ones that meet 90% of the world's food needs. These crops included: banana, barley, cassava, coconut, corn, millet, potato, rye, rice, sorghum, sweet potato, wheat. None of these crops need bees.

On the other hand, meat and dairy products need bees because they need pollinators for forage crops.

Interestingly, developed nations such as the US, Canada, the EU countries, Australia and Argentina have a higher quality of life and thus include more complex diets, based on many more bee-pollinated foods. However, underdeveloped countries whose people subsist on the UN FAO list of crops above, want bees for honey production.

Delaplane pointed out that it doesn't matter if the beekeeper's focus is honey production. The by product for the community when honey production is the point of beekeeping turns out to be pollination!!! And honeybees do well in less developed countries because from an economics perspective, it takes little to get started - you only need a rooftop for a hive - you don't even need land!

And although the many species of solitary bees by themselves do a super job of single flower pollination (fruit set can result after only one visit from the solitary bee), the honeybee visits in droves and thus a colony of bees (social bees) can be a very effective pollinating machine.

We were lucky too that he stayed after his talk for questions on many beekeeping subjects. In the Q and A, someone asked him about poisons in the hives and he said that his research is showing that many of the chemicals that are part of modern day beekeeping are very deleterious to the bees. Maybe mites die, but in the long run, the bees are badly affected.

He cited the beekeeping of Georgia's only Master Craftsman Beekeeper, Bill Owens, who doesn't use any chemicals and really doesn't subscribe to IPM either, but doesn't lose any more hives than the person who does do chemicals in the hive.

Dr. Delaplane reminded all of us that on May 14 - 16 the Young Harris Beekeeping Institute is taking place (this is its 18th year) and that registration is now open. Young Harris is where I earned my certified beekeeper certificate and (last year) my journeyman certificate.

6 comments:

  1. That was really very interesting Linda. That's great that the University got so much money to help them!! I got a pretty good picture of a bee the other day..i posted it today here if you're interested in looking at it :) Have a great Thursday ♥ Kathy

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  2. Thank you again for sharing another interesting post. In particular it's interesting to hear about the 90% non-bee statistic. On the matter of chemicals affecting the bees I couldn't agree more. Did the good Dr say anything about what his prefer (non-chemical) method of treatment for Varroa would be?

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  3. He said to use screened bottom boards, use powdered sugar dusting, and freezing drone comb.

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  4. I had the pleasure of hearing Ross Conrad speak at Young Harris last year, among many others. He has excellent book, in my opinion, titled Natural Beekeeping. Being an organic gardener, I will only treat my bees with non-chemical methods as suggested by Dr. Delaplane and Conrad. Although I've had to feed, this hive has survived a very cold NC winter.

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  5. Great blog! I'll be a regular visitor.

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  6. See the updated talk VIDEO with new numbers at
    http://georgiabees.blogspot.com

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