Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– They’re dying off around the country but in Maryland, honeybees have recently been vanishing twice as fact.
Alex DeMetrick reports it’s a mystery with no easy answers.
“Smoke disarms the guard bees, makes it much less likely to get stung when you go into a beehive,” said beekeeper Steve McDaniel.
And for 35 years, Steve McDaniel has been doing just that in Carroll County.
“I’m a master beekeeper. I’m supposed to know what I’m doing and two-thirds of my bees died last year. This is unprecedented,” McDaniel said.
He isn’t alone.
Nationally, 30% of the bee population has been lost—but in Maryland, it’s closer to 60%.
“This will break a beekeeper’s heart,” McDaniel said.
Bees clustered in death around their queen.
“They were dropping like flies all through the fall and most of it happened before winter. I think they’re getting into pesticides, both in people’s yards and agriculture,” McDaniel said.
But scientists aren’t so sure. Since 2006, colony collapse disorder has been killing honeybees.
“We’re looking at pesticides, just like we’re looking at poor nutrition, parasitic mites as contributing to the overall decline in bee health,” said Jeff Pettis, USDA entomologist.
But colony collapse disorder hasn’t been seen in Maryland in two years.
“What we’re seeing this year is something different. This is a sudden decline in strong colonies and piles of dead bees in front of the hives,” said McDaniel.
There’s a lot more at stake here than just honey. Crops from apples to zucchini take bees to produce because they pollinate the blossoms.
“They’re responsible for one-third of our food supply,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel has been re-stocking his colonies but right now…
“It’s not a huge number of bees. This should be boiling over with bees. They should be everywhere,” he said.
In Maryland, honeybees are responsible for $40 million worth of crops each year.