SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Spring brings warmer air, blooming flowers, and pollen. While many people have pollen allergies, the pollination of plants is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to our food supply. Honey bees play a critical role.
Susan Bridges is a member of the Spartanburg Beekeepers Association. Learning about beekeeping led to her keeping bee hives of her own.
“I always love to learn, and I’m a gardener. And when I noticed that I didn’t have as many pollinators inside my garden, I said well you know, I’m going to try to go learn something about beekeeping,” she explained.
Bees generally travel within a one to two-mile radius from the hive. They collect pollen to bring back to the hive for food, but they also cross-pollinate flowers as they travel along. This ensures flowers will turn into seeds, nuts, or fruit depending on the plant.
They also bring in plant nectar, which is the building block for honey production.
Beekeeping isn’t all about making honey. It’s ensuring that the bees are safe and healthy.
“One of every three bites of food that we eat is insect pollinated, so the honeybee, being a pollinator, is very important to that. It’s estimated in the United States that $15 billion of our crop value is due to the honeybee alone,” she explained.
As a result, the welfare of bees is important. But they face challenges.
“A lot of people think pesticides are what kill a lot of the hives. But if we are responsible and we use pesticides on-label, not off-label like they’re not supposed to be used, you don’t have a lot of pesticide kills,” Bridges said.
“But I think today one of the things we know is that most of our hive losses are due to the varroa destructor mite,” she said. “That mite was actually first noticed in the United States in 1987, and now we find that it feeds on the fat bodies of the honeybees. And it also transfers viruses from hive to hive to hive, and there’s no vaccination for that.”
Weather can also be a factor. Extended rain, cold, or wind keeps bees in the hive, which means no food is coming in.
Bridges said there are ways you can help these busy bees.
“Plant things for pollination. Bees tend to prefer a mass of flowers, so don’t just plant one of this and one of that. They do better if you have a large flower bed of that same sort of flower source,” she said. “If you have bees inside your house then call one of the beekeepers. They have people that will actually remove them from inside your house. Please don’t spray ’em and kill ’em.”
Other insects can pollinate, but the size of bee colonies makes them the most efficient pollinators. And that’s something we don’t want to lose.
Local beekeeper organizations have more on bees and beekeeping. They also are primary contacts in removal of bee swarms, as they will remove and relocate the bees.
In addition to the Spartanburg Beekeepers Association, there are other local beekeeper organizations across the region that can assist. Visit the sites for the South Carolina Beekeepers Association, the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association, or the Georgia Beekeepers Association and look for local bee clubs in your area.