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Rented bees are all the buzz on produce farms

Posted July 9, 2008
Updated July 10, 2008

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— So what's all the buzz on produce farms? For many these days, it's rented bees.

“The farmer's not going to have the produce if you don't have the bees,” said beekeeper Chris Rarick.

Rarick was hired to place 53 hives on a cucumber farm in Wayne County to help pollinate the crop. He spends hours each week checking each one carefully to make sure they are growing – something many farmers don't have time to do themselves.

“To take care of bees is a lot of work,” Rarick said.

Farmers say there is a great shortage of wild bees to keep the crops growing.

“And its very important to have them in order to have plenty of stuff to pick,” said Pam Edwards.

Growers like Edwards must buy their own bees or rent them.

“I'm not sure there are enough bees around on their own without having some brought in,” she said.

Bee experts say disease and predators are partly to blame for the bee shortage. There is also what's called Colony Collapse Disorder. That's the mysterious disappearance of bees.

“You go to the hive, the hive looks fine, (you) go in and there's no bees,” Rarick said.

Rarick said he lost 40 hives that way last year, and that is the other problem. While beekeepers like Rarick are in high demand, they are also feeling the sting of shortages.

“The bee is vital to America, and I think we need to take it a little more serious,” he said.

Rarick and others want to see more research and a solution to the problem. If the buzz stops, so does the growth.


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  • beachboater Jul 9, 2008

    Sounds like we need to teach the bees about the birds and the bees to increase numbers.

  • whatelseisnew Jul 9, 2008

    I watched a show about it sometime last year. They covered several guys that rented bees out to farmers for a living. They all had experienced this same issue, where they would drop off hives with perfectly functioning bee colonies. Then they would discover empty hives. So far no one has figured out what is causing this problem. If we ever do lose most of our bees, we will have some serious food shortages.

  • TomLynda Jul 9, 2008

    I have a very good friend that lives in Idaho that does this for a living. Bee Keeper. Listening to him as he talks about it is fascinating. He regularly takes his bees to places in California. The way he says it - No bees, no pollination, no crops. No crops, no food, so yes bees are very vital to us humans.

  • LetsGetHigh Jul 9, 2008

    I do like playin the Bee movie Game on the Wii.

  • squid90 Jul 9, 2008

    Some crops like cucumbers (cucurbits) need bees to get pollinated from the male flower to the female flower. Crops like cukes need a bee visit about 11 +/- a few, times to form a nice looking cuke one can buy at the store or farmers market. Cukes need bees to do this as opposed to something like tomatoes which can self pollinate or corn which can self pollinate. These crops will use the wind or a breeze to pollinate. Other crops cannot use the wind. Not all veggies need bees but quite a few important crops do

  • Lougrantstwin Jul 9, 2008

    They love lavender trees, we have one in the yard and it is full of bees. I enjoy watching them.

  • sandiandbuster Jul 9, 2008

    It isn't that bees help crops grow faster -- No bees, no pollenation, no crops.

  • mfalesana Jul 9, 2008

    This is interesting. Kinda reminds me of the whole red tide thing that happens in the ocean where the algae kills off fish and other sea animals. Maybe something else is to blame.

  • 2 Jul 9, 2008

    how do bees help cucumbers grow faster than say... cucumbers with no bees? I get their function... just not certain how that effects the growth of plants.

  • CrewMax Jul 9, 2008

    Even to say bees are vital to agriculture in America is a vast understatement. We have lost huge numbers of colonys to pests
    and disease. If you see a bee - don't step him! Thank him!