Bee population drops as human population climbs

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Around the country bees continue to die at significant rates because of a variety of factors.

South Dakota is one of the top honey producing states in the nation.

Hobby beekeeper Jerry Owens says bigger farms mean a smaller variety of flowering plants which significantly reduces the amount of food available to bees throughout the year. The use of pesticides and the cutting of flowering weeds is another problem.

"There are no flowers on wheat," Owens said. "They developed from that seed and there are no flowers on it, so there is nothing for a bee to eat in these vast fields."

See related story A good year for bees?

There is also a parasitic mite that weakens the bees and makes them more susceptible to disease.

"That is probably the number one killer of our bees in this country and maybe even world wide because Varroa mites are a problem virtually everywhere," Owens said.

According to Owens, commercial operations are hit the hardest with some losing as much as 70 percent of their hives last year. Meanwhile, on average, hobby beekeepers lost around 35 percent.

Owens says while this is a concerning problem, bees are incredibly prolific and can repopulate fairly easily.

"You can virtually double the size of a bee nest every six weeks," Owens said.

If you are concerned there are things you can do to help.

"Probably the number one thing is that if you feel like you need something to spray your flowers and plants with, when you go to the store, be sure that you read the label and find a label that says it doesn't hurt the bees," Owens said.

Pesticides and herbicides toxic to bees are picked up when the bees go to drink and can be transmitted to the entire hive.

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