The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 15, 2013

Saving honeybees, one hive at a time

(Continued)

Many scientists since 2006 have said no one knows what’s killing the bees, but Vinduska and Brown and Verhoek say that’s not really true. They all say the culprits include bee viruses, a parasitic mite called the Varroa destructor, and several varieties of clueless human beings.

Farmers hose down their pastures and fields with pesticides. Bees bring home the pesticides and die. Big bee operations complain about this publicly, but Bill and Candy say the big bee operations do some harm themselves.

The beekeepers truck billions of bees all over the country, 500 hives to a semi-truck load every spring and summer, setting out hives to pollinate the almond trees in California, and vegetable and fruit farms everywhere else. A beekeeper can collect anywhere from $50 to $150 to $180 per hive to deliver the bees for pollination.

“Those big farming operations are mono-cultures — not enough variety in nutrients,” Bill Vinduska had said. “So the bees become stressed, their diet isn’t good. Makes them vulnerable.”

Brown said Vinduska is right. When the beekeepers crowd thousands of hives in one valley, “it creates the same thing you’d do if you crowded a bunch of humans together in one brothel. Everybody gets every pest, and every communicable disease.”

Verhoek said county road crews spray all the flowers and weeds in ditches every year now, killing off bee food. And we pave over or plow up every acre these days, he said.

“And yet some people think we honey producers are just concerned about our honey,” he said.

As Vinduska cut with the saw, a gob of bright syrupy gold appeared in the cut, and began to ooze downward. It flowed lazily, sparkling in the lowering sun that baked him inside the bee suit. He kept cutting.

A golfer wearing a straw hat and shorts drove up in a cart.

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