The buzz on bees

Bee hives at Brookview Farm overlooking 35-Mile Drive

Seemingly overnight, spring arrives in Virginia. Suddenly after months of cold, rain and snow, the daffodils and crocus appear and the fields appear greener by the minute. Spring is a time of new beginnings and blooms which means one thing to the honeybee…it is time to get busy.

Did you know that our honeybee, Apis mellifera, is the primary pollinator of many fruits and vegetables including apples, berries, melons, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins and nuts. Honey production in the U.S. is valued at $250 million annually but the honeybee’s true value is in the pollination of fruits, vegetables and nuts, which is valued at $14 billion annually!

There are roughly 2,500 people keeping bees in Virginia (many right here in Goochland including Alfredo Neuman at Brookview Farm along 35-Mile Drive.) Beekeepers play an important role in maintaining the health of the hive.

Bees are generating quite a buzz. Honeybee populations have fallen 30% over the last several years. There are a lot of factors in play including climate change, chemicals and disease and scientists use the term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to describe the general symptoms of decline. One puzzling factor is that the foraging bees are disappearing- simply not returning to the hive.

Foraging bees (worker bees) only live for 1 month during summer months. They will fly 80 to 100 miles each day collecting nectar, pollen and water for the hive. A single bee will only produce 1/12 a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime!

So what can we do to help the honeybees? According to Richmond-based beekeeper Bob Stapleton, establish good “bee yards” with water and abundant nectar sources such as clover, orchards, backyard vegetable and fruit gardens and trees such as black locust, tulip poplar, holly and sourwood.

Virginia Living March/April

In the March/April issue of Virginia Living magazine, see Aynsley Miller Fisher’s feature article “The Little Busy Bee.” Aynsley visited Ann Harman in Flint Hill (President of the Virginia Beekeepers’ Association,) Bob Stapleton (President of the Richmond Beekeepers Association) and Dr. Rick Fell, a leading apiarist in the state at Virginia Tech to find out more about the plight of the honeybee. Visit www.virginialiving.com.  Aynsley is a member of the 35 Mile Drive Association.

For information on beekeeping, visit www.virginiabeekeepers.org and www.richmondbeekeepers.org

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