Special Report: Honey bees crucial to Southwest Georgia crop production

Special Report: Honey bees crucial to Southwest Georgia crop production
Mark Daniel, owner of Mark's Melon Patch (Source: WALB)
Mark Daniel, owner of Mark's Melon Patch (Source: WALB)
Daniel said honey bees are very important for the pollination of his crops (Source: WALB)
Daniel said honey bees are very important for the pollination of his crops (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Mark Daniel is the owner of Mark's Melon Patch.

He's been providing fresh fruits and vegetables to southwest Georgians for more than 30 years. And some of the thanks goes to our local honey bees.

He said they have used honey bees to help pollinate the crops for three decades.

"A lot of the crops that we actually have, they require the transfer of the pollen from the male stamen to the female pistol on the female bloom. That transfer on a lot of crops like watermelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, that can only be done by an insect and typically the bees fill that little job there," said Daniel.

Daniel has 15 hives all along his fields and he said that equals to about a half million bees.

He said even crops that depend on wind pollination can benefit from bee pollination.

"Some crops that we grow like sweet corn, tomatoes are wind pollinated, but even bees can complement your harvest, your yield and your quality of your crop even on those crops," said Daniel.

According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, one-third of the food we eat every day relies on insect pollinators, like bees.

Dale Richter is a master beekeeper and is the owner of The Buzz Fuzz. He said without the honey bee, there would be less food on our grocery shelves.

"Without the honey bee, you wouldn't really have much food to eat, either cultural food or wild food," said Richter.

According to The Nature Conservancy, honey bees value to the United States is estimated to be $15 billion every year. They also said honey bees provide about 80 percent of all the crop pollination in the country.

Richter said if you see a swarm of bees, don't kill them.

"Even this time of year, we're still having swarms of bees, not to just kill a bee when they see it. Call a beekeeper or somebody if they see a swarm of bees. Please don't kill them, let a beekeeper come and get them," said Richter.

Recently, Georgia has implemented some new initiatives to help protect the bee population across Georgia.

Georgia drivers will soon be able to purchase a special license plate to help save the honey bee.

Secretary for the Southwest Georgia Beekeepers Club Lee Brown said this is great news for the state.

"It's about time and I'm glad they unanimously passed the bill in the House, in the Senate in the state of Georgia and that Governor Deal signed the law," said Brown.

Daniel said it's all about balance, weather-wise in farming.

He said there needs to be equal days with sun and rain to help promote crop growth and honey bee activity.

"Bees typically, when the sun comes out in the morning, they zoom out of the hive and they just go to town all over as far as they can go. They'll go up to two miles. They will go as far as they have to go to get the nectar that they're searching for. And when it stays cloudy for days and days, a few come out, but not many and therefore we get poor pollination," said Daniel.

Daniel said the honey bee population has rebounded in southwest Georgia within the last decade.

He said he will continue to keep hives on his farm.

"I think it's getting a little better, at least locally, around here the last few years. But we're not about to give up our beehives, we're going to continue to have bee hives to supplement the wild bumble bees and honey bees that we already have a little bit around here," said Daniel.

According to The Honey Bee Conservancy, there are a few ways to protect honey bees: 

  • Plant flowers with only single blooms like marigolds or daisies
  • Be mindful where you put down herbicides and pesticides
  • Build your own backyard beehive

Dr. Axe.com lists some for uses for raw honey, including:

  • Face cleanser
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Helps with sleep
  • Soothes sore throats
  • Moisturizer

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