Beekeepers alarmed by killer disease - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Beekeepers alarmed by killer disease

February 14, 2007

Lee County --  Beekeepers are alarmed by a mysterious ailment that is killing honeybee colonies in more than 22 states across the country. Beekeepers in South Georgia have also seen the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder, which could threaten growers depending on bees to pollinate their crops.

Two of Dale Richter's honeybee hives died off in recent weeks. It could have been from Colony Collapse Disorder. A mysterious disease that has killed hives across the nation, and so far has beekeepers puzzled.

Richter said, "No idea right now. From what I understand we have no idea right. This is new within a month. You can see there is nothing here. This is just where it died out. And there is not any bees in there at all." There should be nearly 20,000 bees in that hive.

This is happening to beekeepers in at least 22 states. "There are literally thousands of bees in this hive. This is just two frames out of ten in this box."

Colony Collapse Disorder is alarming to the agriculture industry that depends on pollination. South Georgia Watermelons, squash, and cucumber farmers are getting ready to ask beekeepers to pollinate their fields, without the bees their crops are in danger.

Richter said "About 90 percent of that is honeybees, because they can be taken to the field. A lot of watermelon farmers and squash farmers actually rent out bees. They will hire beekeepers to drive in a trailer, and put on the location."

Colony Collapse could be caused by mites, other diseases, or some insecticide, but agriculture scientists across the nation are working to find out.

Richter thinks they will solve the mystery, but he worries about this year's crops. "First we've got to find out what it is, and they will jump right on it. Because it is extremely vital we have the bees for pollination."

A mystery that South Georgia farmers are watching closely. Agriculture experts are warning growers that there could be a shortage of honeybees and pollination services, and they should plan well ahead.  

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