Honey bees are vital to our food supply

By Diane Palmer

honey bees on a hive; photo by Diane Palmer

The honey bee industry has been dealt a heavy blow due to colony collapse disorder in which worker bees abruptly disappear. The causes are unknown, but researchers are now beginning to narrow their focus on a few possible causes related to environmental stresses, including pesticides, mites, disease and malnutrition.

South Carolina bee colonies have been luckier than most but are not immune to the condition. The bees pollinate apple, cantaloupe, cucumber, squash and watermelon crops worth an estimated $24 million in the state.

“About 2,000 beekeepers manage around 25,000 honey bee colonies in South Carolina, and interest in beekeeping is at an all time high,” said Mike Hood, Clemson bee specialist.

More than 240 new beekeepers are enrolled in introductory courses he teaches through the Master Beekeeper program coordinated by Clemson Extension and the S.C. Beekeepers Association.

For information: Mike Hood, 864-656-0346, mhood@clemson.edu