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Honeybee Population Continues To Decline


Honeybees are in decline.   The numbers in the first months of 2016 show the national honeybee population has hit new lows. SDPB’s Allie Knofczynski reports on the research and efforts across South Dakota to protect its state insect.

The number of honeybee colonies in South Dakota is down 40 percent from last year. Colonies lost during the first three months of this year totaled 1 percent of the statewide population. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the honeybee decline began in 2006.

Amanda Bachmann is a pesticide education specialist at South Dakota State University. She says many factors contribute to this decline, including lack of nutrition, extreme temperatures, parasites and pesticide use. These factors negatively affect a hive’s resiliency in the winter.

“I’m a big proponent of increasing habitat not just for honeybees but also for the native bee species that we have that are solitary and aren’t managed but do exist in our landscape and do pollinate…Planting more flowers that are going to blooming at different times of the year because the bees are active up until frost," says Bachmann.

Bachmann says South Dakota is the top honey producer in the nation. She says the state also relies on hives and beekeepers that travel across the country to pollinate different crops.  S0, Bachmann says when honeybees decline, crops suffer nationwide.

Bob Reiners is an apiary specialist for the Department of Agriculture. He says the drop in the honeybee population varies across the state.

“Even last fall we saw a substantial number of colonies that were falling apart or collapsing. Luckily it’s not every producer—why that is, I’m not quite sure, but some producers will get hit harder one year, and maybe they’ll have a couple, three years they’ll be okay and then it seems like the problem persists and that’s what is so frustrating. You can have good bees, and then they start falling apart," says Reiners.

Reiners also adds planting more flowers throughout the season and using fewer pesticides can help protect against further honeybee loss.