ASHEVILLE NC – This past winter left beekeepers across Western North Carolina devastated since finding half or more of their honeybee populations dead or missing, and nobody knows for certain why. The phenomenon is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
“Losses have been steady at 30 percent, but this year it looks really bad… like 50 percent or higher across North Carolina. I’ve talked to some beekeepers that have lost two-thirds of their hives. We’re creating as many new colonies as we can to replace the honeybees, but the beekeepers won’t make it more than a year or two at these levels,” says Carl Chesick, Executive Director at the Center for Honeybee Research.
Beekeepers from the Center for Honey Bee Research, Asheville’s Bee City USA and Rutherford County Beekeepers Association will gather at the 3rd Annual Buzz on Bees on April 27, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. They will educate the public on current problems facing honeybees, like CCD, and what people can do to get involved and help our area’s dying bees.
At Buzz on Bees, glass-enclosed observation hives will allow guests to study live honeybees up close and marvel at these hard-working insects. Local beekeepers will explain the art of beekeeping and honey production with their equipment on display. Bee City USA will lead pollinator hunts for kids and families, helping them understand how bees pollinate plants and how to attract them to your own backyard.
A professional storyteller will hold short bee programs for kids, and a children’s crafts area will offer fun facts on honeybees, coloring and an opportunity for kids to make their own bee costumes with antennae. Some local honey and beeswax products will be available for purchase. Buzz on Bees will be held at Park tents in the top parking lot. There is no additional cost with paid Park admission, which is currently $12 adult, $6 youth (ages 5-15) and free for 4 years and under. Event details are online at chimneyrockpark.com.
Trouble for Bees. Carl Chesick reports losses up to 90 percent this year at his suburban farm in West Asheville, but his hives in more rural areas have fared better. He attributes the higher death rate in part to pesticides and herbicides used for lawn care, such as Roundup. Bees may fly up to three miles for nectar and pollen, and when they pollinate plants that have been sprayed, they may not survive or they may bring the poison back to the hive.
Chesik says since the EPA stopped doing their own testing of new pesticides a decade ago, use of these pesticides has increased more than ten-fold. In addition to deadly pesticides, fungi, mites and loss of habitat, a sudden mysterious decline in the bee population, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, has beekeepers and farmers baffled and concerned about honeybees dying off rapidly. It’s become a problem in the U.S. and parts of Europe affecting crop pollination, which is expected to shrink yields and drive up food prices.
“Part of the problem is our society has come to value weed and insect-free lawns and exotic decorative plants over a diversity of native plants that sustain thousands of native pollinator species and vice versa,” said Phyllis Stiles, Director of Bee City USA.
There are simple measures everyone can take to help, such as avoiding the use of pesticides on gardens and lawns and adding native flowering plants that are pollinator-friendly to their landscapes. BeeCityUSA.org offers an online resource to create a native, pollinator-friendly plant list specific for your yard anywhere in the U.S., and more information will be available at Buzz on Bees.
The Essential Honeybee. The USDA estimates 80 percent of insect-pollinated plants, such as fruits and vegetables, rely on pollination by honeybees. In the U.S. alone, honeybees contribute $15 billion annually to our agricultural economy. Many of our beekeepers, like those in Western North Carolina, are small-scale amateurs who have a large impact. According to the USDA, about 95 percent of the nation’s 150,000 to 200,000 beekeepers are hobbyists and, along with part-time beekeepers, produce about 40 percent of our honey.
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park has been one of the Southeast’s most iconic and popular travel destinations for more than 100 years. Beyond its stunning 75-mile views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge, Chimney Rock offers scenic hiking, rock climbing, Grady’s Animal Discovery Den and educational events year-round. It’s the only state park in the Southeast with an elevator inside a mountain. The park was featured in The Last of the Mohicans, which will be shown on a large outdoor screen at the 2nd Annual Movie on the Meadows June 15. Chimney Rock is located only 40 minutes southeast of Asheville on Highway 64/74A in Chimney Rock, N.C. Call (800) 277-9611 or visit chimneyrockpark.com.
About The Center for Honey Bee Research
Based in Asheville, N.C., the Center for Honey Bee Research promotes natural beekeeping without chemicals and antibiotics. Their mission is to serve as a world communications center for the exchange of beekeeping information and to promote conferences, schools and events to educate beekeepers and the general public on the importance of honeybees in our environment. They are a research-based organization working to establish a comprehensive laboratory to analyze everything affecting the health of bees and their environment. Learn more at www.honeybeeresearch.org.
About Bee City USA
On June 26, 2012, Asheville City Council voted unanimously to become the inaugural Bee City USA™. Bee City USA is a program of the Center for Honeybee Research. By engaging with municipal leaders, our goal is to promote healthy, sustainable habitats and communities not only for honeybees but also for thousands of species of native bees and other pollinators, one municipality at a time. Now Bee City USA wants to share this message: each time we plant a native species—one that thrived in our county (yes “county”, not “country”) for thousands of years, we are making the world safer for pollinators and fortifying the local, complex food web for man, plant, and animal. Phyllis Stiles is director of Bee City USA. For more information, visit www.beecityusa.org.