Photos and text by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.
Queen bee laying eggs.
Why Should You Care about Honey Bees?
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is a vital component of agriculture in North Carolina. Honey bees and the products of the hive, including honey, pollen, and bees wax account for approximately $10 million annually in the state. However, the products derived directly from honey bees are only a small part of their true value. As bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, they transfer pollen grains from one flower to another, which fertilizes them and produces fruit and seeds. Without visits from bees, many crops would have lower yields and produce foods of lower quality. In North Carolina, many of the economically important crops such as cucumbers, apples, blueberries, and melons are dependent on honey bees for pollination and account for $100 million every year.
Honey bee approaching Carolina silverbell (left)
and honey bee on ironweed (right).
Unfortunately, the fate of the honey bee in North Carolina is in question. Because of pests and diseases that have been introduced from other parts of the world, the honey bee population has declined dramatically in the past 20 years. It has been estimated that 98% of the feral (wild) colonies have been eliminated. The numbers of managed colonies have also suffered, dropping in number from a high of 180,000 in the late 1980s to approximately 100,000 at present. Due to the lack of feral colonies, it is of great importance to maintain the numbers of managed honey bee colonies to ensure adequate crop pollination.
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This page last updated February 7, 2012.