Bee draggled

first_imgBy Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaHoneybees can’t seem to catch a break in Georgia. While thisyear’s frequent rains have brought welcome relief for people andmost of the state’s plants and animals, it’s just another toughyear for the bees.”It’s been a bad year for honey production in Georgia,” saidKeith Delaplane, an entomology professor with the University ofGeorgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.The main culprit, Delaplane said, is an excessively wet yearcoming on the heels of more than four straight years of drought.”When there’s too much rain, there’s too much dilution of thenectar,” he explained. Honeybees convert the nectar they extractfrom flowers into honey.Sweet harvestThe honeybee hive survives over the winter on the rich energyreserves stored in the honey. Humans harvest the surplus honey,when there is a surplus, as a sweet crop that eventually ends upon your breakfast table.When there isn’t enough rain, Delaplane said, the lack of waterhinders the buildup of sugars in plants.So for honeybees, this year’s “monsoon season” in Georgia has hadthe same net effect as the previous years of dusty drought: notenough sugar to make the honey they need.As if that weren’t enough, all the rains have led to anotherserious problem for honeybees: mosquitoes.Mosquito woesNo, mosquitoes don’t bite bees. But they bite people, andsometimes they transmit diseases when they do, like West Nilevirus, eastern equine encephalitis and others.When mosquito numbers are high, as they have been at times thisyear, people tend to use more insecticide sprays to reduce therisk of these potentially deadly diseases.And the No. 1 pesticide used to control mosquitoes, malathion, isdeadly to honeybees. “It’s very bad on honeybees if it gets ontothe plants they’re foraging on,” Delaplane said, “or if it’ssprayed directly onto them.”The ultra-low-volume sprays used in most urban areas, he said,lessen the damage to honeybee populations. But malathion in anyform is hardly helpful to the bees, adding insult to the injurybrought on by the quirky weather.(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)last_img read more