Contributed by Steven Newborn
Beekeeper Robbie Bell shows how hard his beehives are being impacted by various threats. When it comes to the threats to honey bees, environmental activists say pesticides are public enemy number one. But scientists say…it’s complicated. Varroa mites, citrus greening disease, and possibly pesticides are threatening the lives of bees in Florida. Photo credit: Steve Newborn
As part of the collaboration between WUSF Public Media and The Zest Podcast, we’ve been reporting on honey bees in the hopes to uncover what is causing hives to collapse and what does that mean to Floridians.
Steve Newborn, WUSF’s assistant news director, spoke with Polk County beekeeper Robbie Bell. Robbie keeps a hundred hives in Fort Meade, Florida and is relied upon by farmers across the U.S. to transport bees to pollinate their crops. Bell said, “We’re seeing the collapse in the beekeeping industry.” He shares there are three factors making a detrimental impact:
1) Varroa mites,
2) Citrus greening – a disease that has decimated the Florida orange groves and orange blossoms, and
3) New neonicotinoids, biotech seeds, and other chemicals impacting the bees’ health.
Groups, such as coalitions of beekeepers, are trying to fight the approval of pesticides that negatively impact bees. Even going as far as to sue the EPA.
Dr. Jamie Ellis, an entymologist specializing in honey bees at the University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, details how improperly applying pesticides may be the cause not the pesticides themselves. “A lot of the impacts that are happening to bees are hard to reproduce in the lab or in controlled studies so we’ve got the idea that pesticides are driving it but we don’t have the data to support that generally,” shared Dr. Ellis.
“You can have 100 hives in June, and I guarantee you that you can have 40 or 50 of them dead in a month,” – Robbie Bell, Florida Beekeeper