© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri beekeepers on lookout for honeybee blight

Colony Collapse has been reported in 22 states.
Colony Collapse has been reported in 22 states.

By Adam Allington, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Beekeepers across Missouri are on high alert for a mysterious blight called "Colony Collapse Disorder".

The disorder has killed unprecedented numbers of honeybees in more than 20 states.

Richard Houseman is an entomologist with the University of Missouri. He says the extent of the problem in Missouri remains unclear, but beekeepers should have a better picture over the coming weeks.

"Looking at the percentage loss is going to be an interesting thing to monitor this spring, and I think we're at that point right now," says Houseman. "[Beekeepers] could see a variety of things, If we do find the disorder, the bee's are going to be gone or the hives could be completely empty."

Houseman says researchers first noticed the die-off last fall but have yet to isolate a cause.

Losses in some states are so large, some Missouri beekeepers are pulling bees out of honey production, and leasing them out for pollination purposes.

Neal Bergman runs the Delta Bee Company in Missouri's bootheel. His operation produces over 200,000 pounds of honey each year. But in recent times he's finding that his bees are as valuable for their pollinating skills as they are for making honey.

Bergman and several other Missouri beekeepers have started leasing out their bees as agricultural pollinators particularly to California.

"The amount of acres of almonds being pollinated in California just keeps increasing and likewise the number of bees keeps decreasing," says Bergman.

This year Bergman has 3,000 hives in California. At $150 per hive he stands to make close to a half million dollars before expenses.