Mild winter may help Iowa bee business - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Mild winter may help Iowa bee business


Common farm pesticides may be causing problems for an important species already in trouble.  New research suggests chemicals used in 90 percent of corn grown in the US could be a problem for honeybees.  The study shows chemicals reduce the weight and number of queens in hives and also cause more bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

In addition, the past couple Iowa winters have resulted in some of the highest bee mortality rates in the country, killing off some 55 percent of all hives last year, and 74 percent the year before.  But now, there's hope this year's mild winter could help some honey holes bounce back.

Victor Collins has been around the bee business nearly all his life.  And he's seen their population and honey production slowly dwindle.

"My father used to get 200 pounds a swarm.  Now we're lucky if we can get 40 or 50 pounds a swarm," said A. Victor Collins of Collins Honey Farm in Hazleton.

Thankfully, this year's mild winter could benefit his bees.  Far fewer were killed off in the cold weather.  Trouble is, mites that kill off bees also survived the winter.

"We started looking for mites yesterday.  We went through them and there's quite a few mites.  And so we're just going to have to work awful hard this spring to try to control them," Collins said.

But Collins still sees promise for the buzzing  business.  Especially as evidence increasingly shows medicinal benefits to pure, uncooked honey.

"Raw honey is being used by, suggested by, some doctors at least, to help the liver with those people that have chemotherapy and so forth.  We also have diabetic sores we've been able to help people with," said Collins.

And of course bees are important for much more than  just honey.

"The people that raise corn say, 'We're feeding the world.'  Well we're not feeding the world, but certainly some of the things we eat require the pollination of the bee:  the apples, pears, strawberries, and we could just go on, for all the bees are needed," Collins said.

So Collins hopes everyone will pitch in to help bees by being mindful about pesticide use, and landscaping with bee friendly plants, so they can pollinate and keep bee farms abuzz.

And get this:  Iowa's 30,000 bee colonies produce more than 3 million pounds of honey, worth some $3.5 million.  And in the work bees do pollinating other crops, there's another $92 million benefit for the state's economy each year.



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