COLUMBUS, Kan. – If you want to eat the perfect biscuit, grab it straight from the oven, smother it in butter and drizzle some honey over the top. Groomed like that, one biscuit calls for one more. The ingredient that seems to make it complete is the honey, made possible by honeybees.
An interest in beekeeping can lead to a wonderful hobby or even a business venture. Many people value local honey over commercially produced honey. However, getting started and maintaining bee colonies are not the simplest tasks.
In an effort to promote beekeeping in southeast Kansas, Cherokee County K-State Research and Extension will be hosting a free Honeybee Workshop on June 30, 6:30 p.m., at the Cherokee County 4-H Building. The address is 114 W. County Road, Columbus, KS.
Sharon Dobesh, Kansas State University bee specialist, will present information at the workshop for both the novice and experienced beekeeper. She will demonstrate equipment used in keeping bees and have an open question and answer period for different topics that might include feeding bees in the summer, controlling pests, considering plants that help make the best honey and expanding the honeybee population.
Honeybees were imported to the United States from Europe during the 1600s, according to a report from Purdue Extension (http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcom/newscolumns/archives/OSL/1999/November/111199OSL.html). Since that time, the honeybee has become a valuable asset to U.S. food production.
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension (http://ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/ec301/build/ec301.pdf), bees contribute more than $10 billion each year to U.S. farm value by pollinating crops. Honeybees produce more than $200 million in honey annually.
The U.S. government’s Pollinator Task Force recently developed a national strategy (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/Pollinator%20Health%20Strategy%202015.pdf) to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators for our crops and many fruits and vegetables. Organizations and task forces such as these have formed in the last decade, as honeybees have faced pressure to maintain their population.
Many hives have not survived cold winters, and Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has also plagued the bee population. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) (http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572) defines CCD as a dead colony with no adult bees, or dead bee bodies with a live queen and usually honey and immature bees still present. The cause for CCD remains unknown.
Other issues such as poor nutrition during drought years, parasites like the Varroa mites, and other pests and viruses have also played a role in the decline of honeybee populations. Likewise, insecticides have taken some of the blame for the decrease in honeybee numbers.
Insecticides are needed to protect crops from certain pests, but they can kill beneficial insects that include bees present during insecticide application. For this reason, producers are encouraged to spray insecticides early in the morning or late evening when honeybees are not as active.
More information about protecting honeybees from insecticides is available in publications from Virginia Tech (https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/456/456-016/Section-1_Protecting_Honeybees.pdf) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension (http://ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/ec301/build/ec301.pdf).
These and many other topics will be covered at the Honeybee Workshop sponsored by Farmer’s Cooperative Association of Columbus and Baxter Springs. If you have any questions regarding the meeting, please contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 620-429-3849.