There are plenty of reasons to cherish honeybees. They are not only vital to the environment, but they are also the backbone of what ends up on most dinner plates.
Many domestic and imported fruits and vegetables require a honeybee’s pollination. A vast majority of U.S. crops are dependant on honeybees, according to Honey Love Urban Beekeepers.
“It’s a big process because bees pollinate 80 percent of the stuff that grows in this country,” bee expert John Coldwell said. “Pollination services are important for us to maintain our Western culture diet.”
Coldwell is the president of Broward Bee Association, South Florida Beekeepers Association and The Urban Beekeepers. He is also on the Region 6 board of managers for Florida State Bee Association.
Earlier in his life, Coldwell sustained his own backyard garden. He stumbled into beekeeping when he noticed his crops were suffering.
“I got bees because my garden was not doing well,” Coldwell said. “I figured out that I was a bad gardener, but I was a really good beekeeper.”
As it turns out, the most valuable tool in a garden is less than an inch long and only lives for a couple of months – the honeybee.
“Beekeeping, whether it’s just in your backyard, or you’re doing it on a larger or commercial scale, it’s a passion,” Coldwell said.
With that being said, the importance of properly caring for honeybees is paramount.
The “save the bees” movement has been a relevant topic for many years now. Scientists and expert gardeners alike have been searching for the reason that bees are declining at such a fast rate.
“Scientists do not believe that herbicides and pesticides are a problem with honeybees, or any insect, because they think herbicides are for killing plants,” Coldwell said. “I think common sense does [indicate it is a problem], though.”
The environment, water, air and land can all be affected by pesticide infestation. The chemicals are transferred from the environment to the beehives, thus infecting many fruits and vegetables that rely on pollination, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Coalition.
“If you’re in Europe and there is a problem that relates people and insects, they stop using that stuff to figure it out,” Coldwell said. “But in the United States, we say, ‘We haven't proven that it’s not good, so before we take it off the market, let’s do some more testing.’”
Aside from toxins and poisons, the demand of honeybees nationwide contributes to their declining population.
Pollination services are needed in every state, which requires beekeepers such as Coldwell to drive honeybees across the country.
“It’s very demanding on the bees because if you were to take 1,000 hives to California, you’d probably come back with anywhere from 500 to 600,” Coldwell said. “Just dragging bees 3,000 to 6,000 miles roundtrip is very hard on them.”
However, the death rate of honeybees has significantly slowed down in recent years.
Commercial beekeepers such as the South Florida Beekeepers Association have been implementing programs to recover their losses. Education is now more accessible for bee farmers.
Because of their connection to bees, beekeepers invest themselves deep in their own ecosystems.
Proper management and good nutrients and supplements can go a long way for a stronger beehive that is able to hold itself up against environmental conditions.
“It is the most passionate hobby or vocation you could possibly have,” Coldwell said. “That is how I got into bees, and that is why I continue to care for bees.”
By Sofia Jas