Fewer bees could mean more expensive products

FILE - In this April 25, 2007 file photo, Jeffery Pettis, a top bee scientist at the Agriculture Department\'s Bee Research Laboratory, talks about his work with honeybees, in Beltsville, Md. A new federal report blames a combination of problems for a mysterious and dramatic disappearance of U.S. honeybees since 2006. The factors cited include a parasitic mite, multiple viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition and pesticides. Experts say having so many causes makes it harder to do something about what\'s called colony collapse disorder. The disorder has caused as much as one-third of the nation\'s bees to just disappear over the winter each year since 2006. The report was issued Thursday by the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

Joan Jones, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Ask any beekeeper and they will tell you something is killing their bees.

“I went into winter with 64 colonies and I came out with six,” says Bob Greenwell, president of the Bowie-Upper Marlboro Beekeepers Association.

A dramatic drop in the bee population could lead to fewer crops and smaller fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Ultimately, consumers would end up paying more, says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a research scientist at the University of Maryland.

About 30 percent of the managed hives in the U.S. died over the winter, according to a report from the Bee Informed Partnership. In Maryland, the number is closer to 60 percent, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Bee killers range from overuse of pesticides to a virus carrying mite that feeds on the insect’s blood.

The parasitic Varroa Mite “has dirty mouth parts that pass viruses from bee to bee,” vanEngelsdorp says.

A pesticide to control the mite became widely available to commercial beekeepers last fall, but not in time to save the bee population for this spring, he says.

In the meantime, vanEnglesdorp suggests that residents in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. try their hand at becoming beekeepers – something he calls a relaxing endeavor.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, try planting a pollinator garden with flowers that are yellow and purple and bloom during different seasons, vanEnglesdorp says.

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