A panel discussion about the decline in the world’s honeybee population is set to take place this week at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. State Apiarist Andrew Joseph will be one of the panelists. He says the last several years have been difficult on Iowa’s bee industry.
“We have heavy pest and parasite populations in our hives and we just haven’t had good seasons for honey production and pollination,” Joseph said. “We’ve had sick, stressed and struggling bees and what that equals is low honey yields, poor pollination and high death rates in (bee) colonies.”
There are between 1,500 to 2,000 Iowans involved in beekeeping – from the hobby level to commercial producers. Joseph says they maintain up to 35,000 colonies which are critical to agricultural pollination. “We are largely responsible for millions of dollars worth of crop pollination in Iowa. Not so much corn and soybeans, of course, but fruits and vegetables…the value these provide really adds up and with struggling pollinators, those crops can pay a price as well,” Joseph said.
The biggest parasitic enemy of bees is the Varroa mite, which has plagued the industry since the 1990s. Joseph and the other panelists are also concerned with the phenomena known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which has puzzled researchers and killed off a large portion of the honeybee population worldwide. CCD first appeared in 2006.
“There’s a beekeeper in one part of Iowa that lost over 5,000 colonies of bees (from CCD) just this past spring,” Joseph said. “So it’s very much still a real concern for beekeepers.” The panel discussion on the U.N.I. campus will follow the showing of the film “The Vanishing of the Bees,” scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Center for Energy and Environmental Education auditorium.
The event is free and open to the public.