Dr. Diana Sammataro
Research Associate, Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University
Honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) are important pollinators of over 90 fruit and vegetable crops worldwide. Modern U.S. agricultural practices, for ease of maintenance and harvest, include planting large acreages of single variety crops. If the crops require insect pollination, honeybees are introduced on a temporary basis when the target crop is flowering. Readily available, affordable and efficient pollinators are essential for today’s growers to produce, not only the foods consumers demand (almonds, apples, peaches, cherries, citrus, squash and melons, berries and cole crops), but the seeds needed for future crops (alfalfa, herb and vegetable seeds, onions, rape, vetch and clover). The availability of honeybee pollinators from beekeepers and from feral colonies is in jeopardy because of the introduction of two destructive parasitic bee mites that are killing the bees. In the U.S., 50 to 90 percent of managed honey bee colonies have been lost over the past 10 years due to these mites, and, for all intents and purposes all feral honey bee nests have been eliminated. Many beekeepers have gone out of business, because of these mites, and in the last decade, the U.S. has lost 20 to 40 percent of its hobbyist beekeepers and 25 percent of its bee colonies. Some results of this shortage of bees are: (1) beekeepers going out of business; (2) increased demand and cost for leasing hives and (3) increased incidence of pathogens in colonies, affecting quality of commercially reared queens and bees.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.