Student asks KBA about honeybee health

CubRunElemRecently, I received this email from Rebekah, a seventh grader in Hart County:

I am at Cub Run Elementary School in Hart County.  I am working on an essay about the importance and protection of the honey bee. I have researched a lot of information online but also was hoping you could answer some questions to make it more meaningful and tell more about the honey bee population in Kentucky.  If you have time, could you answer these questions?  Thank you!!!


And, here is my reply:

Hi there, Rebekah!  What an important project! I am so glad you’re interested in honeybees!

1.  How do honey bees impact our environment?  Some research says they are responsible for 30% of our food supply.  Do they affect us that much in Kentucky?

There is every indication that Ky’s food supply is affected as you describe. About 1 in every 3 bites of food we take are directly or indirectly dependent on honeybees!

2.  What are some things we can do in our own communities to improve the population of honey bees?

The first and best way the average citizen can improve honeybee health is to become educated about the topic.  When we understand how important bees are to our environment, then we can take steps to protect them.  I also recommend using little to no pesticides in gardens and backyards. Bees can forage 2-6 miles from their hive, so spraying your little plot of land can negatively affect bees around you in wide radius.  I use a garlic-oil based spray to minimize mosquitos in the winter, and now my neighbors have begun to do the same.  The average consumer should look at products they’re buying for their yards and ask how it affects bees (and other pollinators).

Another great way to support bee health is to have a backyard hive.  This helps improve the genetic diversity of the bee population, not to mention is a fun hobby!  You can also plant bee-friendly wildflowers, clover, buckwheat, and other flowering plants in your garden to give the bees tasty forage.

3.  What has changed about honey bees in Kentucky over the past few years?

Honeybee hives have become more susceptible to pests like hive beetles and viruses.  This is due to a lot of factors, but in general the genetic strength of the bees isn’t as strong.  As a result, bees have trouble keeping pests out of their hives.  Pesticides, lack of forage diversity, and climate change all contribute to poor genetic diversity.

4.  Plant life cycles are affected by the honey bees.  What other things do honey bees impact?

Honeybees pollinate a wide variety of flowering plants.  Almond trees are 100% dependent on honeybees for pollination – so no bees, no almonds!  We also get a lot of our fruits and veggies from bee-pollinated plants, so a decline in bee health means less of those foods, and higher prices.

5.  Is there anything else you would like to add about the importance of the honeybee or how we can help preserve them?

You’re doing an important part of preserving honeybees – you’re educating yourself and others about the issue!  The average citizen can indirectly support honeybees by buying from local farmers and farmers’ markets.  That encourages vendors to plant more diverse plants, which honeybees love. You can also buy local honey from beekeepers, farmers’ markets, coffee shops, and grocers. Supporting a beekeeper makes for happy bees!

I talk to everyone about being a beekeeper and how important bees are. Now that you’re learning about bees, I encourage you to “tell the story” too!  Thanks so much for your interest in honeybees!

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