Indiana bees feeling sting of historic declines

Bees are disappearing in Indiana and around the globe, which scientists say is caused by the prevalence of parasitic mites, viruses, fungal diseases and pesticides. Photo credit: Butkovicdub/Morguefile.

By Mary Kuhlman

Indiana bees are feeling the sting of a variety of environmental factors.

David Shenefield, president of the Indiana Beekeepers Association, says there has been a dramatic decline in bee populations, which is linked to parasitic mites, viruses, fungal diseases and pesticides. He says a loss of bee habitat also is a problem.

"We've become more of a monoculture where all you see is corn and beans and those kinds of things, and we need to think about the beneficial insects and try to help them out by planting habitat areas for them," he stresses.

Bees pollinate nearly 70 percent of the crops that provide the majority of the world's food, and contribute more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A recent study finds that some bees are addicted to nectar that contains pesticides.

Elizabeth Ouzts, communications director with Environment America, says a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids is of special concern because such insecticides can scramble a bee's memory and navigation functions.

"The U.S. EPA has announced that it would ban new uses of this class of pesticide, and so we'd like them to take the next step and ban all uses, including existing uses, altogether," she states.

Shenefield says while government and corporations have a role to play, Hoosiers also can help by making their backyard bee-friendly.

"Quit spraying and killing all the weeds and stuff in their yard," Shenefield stresses. "Everybody likes a pretty green lawn, and that might look good but it doesn't benefit anybody but the property owner when he sees a nice green yard."

You can also help bees by choosing plants for your yard that attract bees, such as wildflowers, flowering herbs, berries, sunflowers and more. Grouping the same plants together also is helpful to the insect.


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