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and carry it to his own local newspaper. I do request that I be given credit for writing
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ARE THERE BEES IN YOUR CLOVER?
Copyright 1998 by Janice D. Green
When I was a child, going barefoot through clover in the lawn could result in a sting
on the foot. After a few tears and a day, the swelling would go down and life would
continue as normal. And that WAS normal.
But, if you have clover blooming in your lawn now, even if you live in the country, you
may find that there are no bees to be found. This is NOT normal. Neither is their absence
a cause for rejoicing.
Our honeybees are not pests, they are our friends. This has nothing to do with honey.
One third of the food we eat is dependent directly or indirectly on the pollination that
is provided by our honeybees. Some of the foods included in this list are melons,
strawberries, apples, blueberries, squash, pumpkin, oranges, grapefruit, kiwifruit,
almonds, tomatoes, beans, and beef.
Huh? Did you say beef?
Yes, beef. Cows may eat mostly grass which is pollinated by the wind. No problem. But
they must also eat alfalfa and legumes if they are to have the protein in their diets that
they need to be healthy. Alfalfa and legumes do require bees if they are to re-seed for
the next year's crop. This is but one example of how bees benefit more than only the
specific crops they pollinate.
Birds and other wildlife need the bees to pollinate the wild berries that they eat.
Blackberries, dewberries, elderberries, sparkleberries, etc. are full and juicy if there
are bees around to pollinate them. Where there are no bees closeby, only small
underdeveloped fruit will result. Wild plums will not make fruit without bees.
If you have clover blooming in your yard yet have no bees, then you will be unable to
grow a vegetable garden that will produce quality fruit. Squash and cucumbers will fall
off the vines, or if they survive they will be malformed and spoil easily. Watermelons, if
they don't fall off the vines, will not fill out as they should, nor will they fully ripen
without adequate pollination. A watermelon that has a lot of white seeds is not pollinated
well enough to make a sweet tasting melon. Beans and tomatoes will not produce as much
fruit without bees. Serious crop farmers are learning that they must now lease bees from
beekeepers to get a good harvest, as there are so few wild bees left to pollinate their
Our bees are declining for a number of reasons. The varroa mite has been in the news
lately, and it is a serious problem. These mites live on bees like fleas live on dogs.
They suck the juices from the bodies of the bee larvae causing them to emerge deformed and
helpless. Beekeepers can protect their honeybees from varroa mites with treated plastic
strips which are very expensive.
But there are other reasons for the decline of bees that you don't generally hear about
in the news. Varroa is a "politically correct" smokescreen for many other
problems which the bees face that are caused by man himself.
The MIS-use of pesticides cause high casualties among honeybees and wild bees alike.
Most pesticides have instructions on their labels that state that they are not to be
applied while the bees are foraging (gathering nectar and pollen from the plants). That
means applicators might have to wait until evening, the very cool mornings, or whatever
time the bees are not flying, to safely apply the pesticides. Too many of our farmers, and
even more so, our aerial spray applicators, don't want to be bothered with these
instructions and simply spray when it is convenient. My husband and I (who are beekeepers)
lost over half of the 125 hives that were on one farmer's crops. The farmer paid us to
bring them, but because it wasn't convenient to wait until evening to spray, he dropped
the very bees he had leased by the thousands all over his cucumber fields. This doesn't
usually happen with farmers who pay to lease bees, but it happens all too often with
farmers who don't think they need the bees.
Cotton spraying is especially hazardous to bees unless those applying the pesticides
pay attention to the times when the bees are foraging. The sad part is that the bees have
been killed off so badly by now that it is difficult to tell if they are there or not.
Bees love cotton blossoms. Ten years ago one could walk down a row of cotton in bloom and
see hundreds of bees. Today, one is lucky to find a bee or two on the cotton. That is a
scary thought when we remember that the bees must pollinate our food. Where are they?
There are new varieties of cotton that have been developed recently that are genetically
engineered in such a way that the farmer does not need to use pesticides as often. Last
summer with these new varieties growing in our area, our bees fared much better than in
previous summers. Hopefully this will continue to work for our bees.
Clear-cut logging and huge acres of farmland without wooded lands have also reduced
seriously the habitat available for bees. The increased amount of land inhabited by people
has diminished the acreage of land available for bees to live on as well.
Man's hysteria and ignorance plays an important role in the decline of bees. Recently a
lady came to our honey house to ask us how she could get rid of the bees in her holly
bushes. She had already used Raid on them and it didn't stop them. Upon investigation, the
bushes were in bloom and the bees were happily gathering nectar and pollen. There was a
migrant beekeeper close enough that his bees had found the holly bushes. We persuaded her
to let the bees "bee" so she would have berries on her holly as well as a better
garden with the help of the bees.
Not all people are so smart, however. In another instance here in South Carolina,
hysteria may have been to blame for the deliberate vandalization and poisoning of about a
hundred robust colonies of bees that by the end of the spring would have produced enough
beehives to pollinate one million dollars worth of apples or melons.
Mankind must get a grip on his fear of bees as well as his hunger for profit at the
expense of our bees if we are to avoid serious famine in our country. If you find bees in
your clover it is time to express gratitude to the One who created these amazing creatures
and has sustained them through these reckless years. If you don't, it is time to stand up
for the bees, educate your friends and neighbors, and hug a beekeeper.
Janice Green, Beekeeper, Hemingway, SC
...Of Bees, Beekeepers and Food: A Primer about Pollinators
Do a bee count in a clover patch in your yard and report back to share your data on this