Life hasn’t been easy for bees in South Carolina lately.
According to a survey by the United States Department of Agriculture and Bee Informed Partnership, South Carolina lost about 33 percent of its bees during the winter 2016-2017, the most recent numbers available in the survey.
South Carolina bees also are dealing with the Honey Bee Tracheal Mite, which has been studied by the Clemson Extension.
“There’s a lot of contributing factors for the decline and the quality of hives and their production levels,” said beekeeper Jennifer Stalford with J and J Family Farm in Clover. “One of them’s definitely environment, type of chemicals that people use. There’s a loss of habitat.”
“A big issue in South Carolina is a lack of queens –quality queens,” Stalford said. “The queen rears, typically, we’re getting queens out of Georgia and North Carolina and they’re just not high quality and there’s a lot of stress on the queens (when they are shipped).”
Stalford said if a beekeeper loses a queen, honey production is lost for two years. “If you lose your queen, you lose your whole hive and it’s a huge investment,” she said. “You can’t get those bees back. It’s significant for a beekeeper.”
There are some things humans can do to help the bee population and other pollinators.
“Understand what chemicals they’re using in their own home landscaping. . . what happens is the bees come in, they’re going to be getting that on themselves. When they go back to the hive they’re going to have — other bees are going to be grooming them. That’s going to spread through the hive. So that could be a dead-out in a matter of days.”
Stalford encourages people to think about human needs when considering bees. She also said bees need water and food.
“Water sources are good, but definitely, anything anyone can do is planting wildflowers, preferably native plants,” she said.