The plight of the vanishing honeybee is a buzz topic of today.
TIME Magazine’s Aug. 19 edition cover story “A World Without Bees” drew attention to the potential for devastation and the story Doug Schulz knows all too well.
Schulz is a beekeeper for Wisconsin Natural Acres, the makers of 100 percent all natural honey. Based in Chilton, the 38-year experienced honey artisan has dedicated his life to producing the purest honey since he was a young teen. Unlike most honey, his product has no additives. It is unblended, unfiltered, and never heated, thus unpasteurized and receiving its status as pure. A fair portion of store-bought honey is blended with imported honey from within or out of the country, heated, filtered and pasteurized, diminishing flavor and destroying the antioxidants and active enzymes that are so good for health. Wisconsin has a high concentration of alfalfa, clover and Basswood trees providing the dream team of floral source for nectar adding to the flavor of Schulz’s honey.
With nearly four decades of experience working alongside beehives (without protective netting), Schulz has seen firsthand the drop in bee population. He voices concern over the domino effect of destruction on the food chain, advocates for citizens and farm owners to understand what can be done, and shares his response to the situation.
“If we totally lose the honeybee population the scientific estimate is four years for human demise. In short, honeybees pollinate not just flowers and fruit trees but also alfalfa, rice, wheat, and more. If we lose the grains and legumes we lose our food source for beef and dairy. The chain of effect continues and is a frightening thought,” Schulz said.
The TIME Magazine article illustrated the effect by asking Whole Foods in Rhode Island to remove all food in their produce section that existed because of honeybees. Vanished were 237 out of 453 items. Again, this was solely produce, not products storewide that would be affected by honeybee loss.
Survival rates drop
“In winter the bees cluster around the queen in their hives and temperatures remain 97 degrees despite the frigid air outside. When I first started in this business I had a 95 percent survival rate of the bees following the winter cluster. Now I have about a 50 percent rate of survival,” Schulz said.
Analogous to recent research, Schultz points to the Varro mite and pesticides as the culprits. “The bees are weakened by both the mite and pesticides and haven’t the ability to survive the winter,” Schulz said.
A more frightening thought is the affects of genetically modified crops and the continued stamp of approval from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) of toxic pesticides which some scientists link to the potential factor to widespread colony collapse. “The honeybee extracts the nectar from a plant of a genetically modified crop or toxic pesticide which research indicates produces a mind numbing effect. The articles state that the bees become confused and unable to find their way back to the hive,” Schulz said.
This past year Schulz placed numerous swarm boxes in previously unused areas throughout the region. His placements paid off as 14 new swarms moved in creating new colonies of bees. “Some colonies grow too large and need a new hive while others are just looking for a new location with greater resources for nectar,” Schulz said.
Schulz encourages people to not squash a honeybee. Flinging your arms as it nears you will only aggravate the insect. No pun intended, but just let it be.
Coming to get a swarm
“I have had people call me when they spot a swarm. I can deliver a swarm box to the site and prefer to do that rather than have a person call an exterminator. A swarm moves only 50 yards at a time since the queen is unable to fly farther than that due to her size. Before the swarm develops, scout bees will leave the colony to locate a potential hive and once found the swarm gathers and will move. I can bring the hive to them and after the colony moves in I can take away the hive,” Schulz said.
A swarm will move quickly into hive since the bees are engorged with honey and can last only up to three days without a hive. It is not unusual to see a swarm move into a new hive within an hour.
Swarms typically take place in the spring and Schulz suggests that people should take note of them and send him a digital photo when possible to confirm the species. In most cases a spotted swarm happens to be wasps instead of honeybees. “Wasps are also needed in our world. Most people don’t realize how many mosquitos they eat on a daily basis,” Schulz said.
The beekeeping community would appreciate the farming industry to be alert to the potential devastation and avoid using toxic pesticides. Research names a new chemical, Sulfoxaflor, as highly toxic to honeybees.
“I have extreme passion for the process of making quality honey and saving the bees is key for me,”
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