Apiculture, or beekeeping, is the art and science of managing honey bees for hive products such as honey and wax but most importantly, for the service of pollination. There are approximately 25,000 to 35,000 commercial beekeepers in the United States, and honey bee pollination services are estimated to provide $40-billion worth of added value to crops worldwide every year.
A constant concern of beekeepers is making sure that bees are healthy enough to meet the demand for pollination. Several changes since the mid-1980s have impacted the work of beekeepers including:
- The introduction of two species of parasitic mites including the Varroa destructor
- The introduction of a new honey bee gut parasite
- New viruses and increased transmission
- Shift from hobby/small scale beekeeper to larger operations
- Reductions in forage land
- Increase demand for pollination services
- Shift from honey production to pollination services
In nature, bee colonies that survive the longest are those that swarm frequently because they leave their problems behind and start over. But in managed colonies, honey bees do not have the same opportunities to flee or swarm because beekeepers try to prevent swarming so colonies can be larger and maintained over several years or longer. Also, managed colonies are built to high populations and are kept in man-made hives within close proximity to numerous other colonies. These factors intensify the spreading and effects of animal pests.
|“In managed hives, beekeepers have to help the bees by managing the pests using integrated pest management as well as creating a stable environment that allows bees to defend the hive successfully.”
- Dick Rogers, entomologist and research manager for Bayer Bee Care