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Rented bees are all the buzz on produce farms

Many farmers are forced to buy or rent bees for their land. Bee experts say disease and predators are partly to blame for the bee shortage.

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GOLDSBORO, N.C. — 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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Mike Charbonneau, Reporter
Kelly Hinchcliffe, Web Editor

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