Headlines across the globe recently proclaimed bees have become an endangered species.
However, of the 20,000 species of bees in the world, just seven were placed on the list. None of them were honey bees.
Barkman Honey director of procurement Eric Wenger said reports of declaring honey bee numbers are inaccurate.
“They’re actually increasing in numbers,” Wenger said. “There are technically more bees dying, but the number of bees is going up because bee keepers have been able to make up for the bees dying.”
Wenger said it is a complex issue because there are “real challenges to honey bee health, but they’re being actively managed by bee keepers.”
“Bees could manage one or two of those issues on their health, but when you roll all of them together, it becomes a real challenge for bees,” Wenger said. “If there weren’t bee keepers to manage the bees, the numbers would completely collapse and we’d be left with very few bees in the U.S.”
One challenge, according to Tabor College chemistry professor Norman Schmidt, is new diseases and parasites that bees get, such as mites.
“The native bees aren’t used to this new species, and they have to deal with it,” Schmidt said. “Maybe they don’t deal with it very well, and so they die.”
Schmidt, who has been keeping bees for 25 years, has 20 hives of bees and sells the honey at his wife’s bakery in Hillsboro.
Schmidt also works as a bee remover in order to save bees from being killed.
“There were some people that had bees out near Ramona in two trees,” Schmidt said. “They wanted me to take the bees out of the trees, so I gladly did that and put them into hives. Those bees are doing quite well.”
Another issue, Schmidt said, was the use of pesticides and insecticides on lawns, gardens, and farm crops.
“Farmers are careful about that for the most part though,” Schmidt said. “They realize there are good pollinators and then there are bad bugs. Most farmers aren’t going to be spraying unless the bad bugs are outing the good bugs.”
However, Schmidt said it is not as great an issue around here due to the types of crops grown in Kansas.
“Most of the crops we grow around here, such as wheat, corn, soy bean, and milo, are all self-pollinating,” Schmidt said. “They do not need honey bees to help them pollinate.”
Some beekeepers travel year-round to use bees to pollinate different crops.
“There are bee keepers who have literally thousands of hives and will cart them all over the country to pollinate crops,” Schmidt said. “There are beekeepers who load up their beehives on trucks and take them all the way to California to pollinate the almond growth there then they’ll take them to North Dakota for alfalfa, then during winter they’ll take them to Texas.”
Although honey bees are not on the endangered list, Schmidt said people should still be aware of the many reasons bees can die, especially pesticides and insectides.
“We don’t always see the consequences of our actions of what we do,” Schmidt said, “and it’s one of those things we got to realize what’s going to happen.”