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Honey Bee Population Back Up in Virginia

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Honey bees Honey bees
Ken Hall Ken Hall
Ken Hall giving a demonstration at the Albemarle County Fair Ken Hall giving a demonstration at the Albemarle County Fair
Ken Hall giving a demonstration at the Albemarle County Fair Ken Hall giving a demonstration at the Albemarle County Fair
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

The honey bee population in Virginia is back up by 23 percent, after it had a huge fall out last January.

Pesticides and warm winters had taken a toll on honey bees, but the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently announced the commonwealth had 8,000 honey bee colonies at the start of the year. In January of 2016, Virginia had 6,500 colonies.

Ken Hall has been a honey beekeeper for 20 years now.

"I make money being an engineer, and spend money being a bee keeper," he said.

Hall and his wife Karen are teaching people about bees during the Albemarle County Fair. The couple has 15 colonies at home, with each containing as many as 50,000 bees. Out of all of their colonies, only about 4,500 honey bees are males.

"Males do no work for the colony at all. To get anything done, you need a lot of females," the beekeeper explained.

Hall said he lost a lot of bees about a year ago. Last January, the state’s honey bee population shrank by 33 percent.

“Roughly one third of what we eat is dependent on the honey bee. So that's not only your honey, beeswax, etc. But it's your strawberries, it's your apples, it's your pumpkins. It's a lot of the products we deal with on a regular basis," said Karen Hall.

The Halls said weather is a huge factor in keeping the bees alive: "The past winter we had was warm, but actually a warm winter is worse for bees than a cold winter because it makes them too active," Ken Hall said.

When bees are too active in the winter, they run out of honey quicker, and since there aren't any flowers around, they may starve to death.

“As long as you're not bothering them, they're not going to bother you,” said Ken Hall.

So, next time you're thinking about killing a pesky bee, keep in mind they may be the reason you have your favorite food.

"What you want to do is be still, and don't swat at them,” said the beekeeper.

Release Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announced that honey bee colonies for operations with five or more colonies in Virginia as of January 1, 2017 totaled 8,000. This is 23 percent above the 6.500 colonies on January 1, 2016. Surveys were done by the Virginia Field Office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

During 2016, honey bee colonies on April 1, July 1, and October 1 were 6,000, 8,000, and 7,000, respectively, and April 1, 2017 were 8,500. Honey bee colonies lost for operations with five or more colonies during the quarter of January-March 2017, were 1,400 colonies or 18 percent lost, the highest honey bee colonies loss of the six quarters. The quarter of April-June 2016, at 230 colonies or 4 percent, showed the least amount of lost honey bee colonies.

Honey bee colonies added for operations with five or more colonies during the quarter of January-March 2017 were 1,900 colonies. The quarter of April-June 2017 added 3,100 colonies, the highest number of honey bee colonies added of the six quarters. The quarter of October-December 2016 added 230 colonies, the lowest number of honey bee colonies added. Honey bee colonies renovated for operations with five or more colonies during the quarter of January-March 2017 were 280. The lowest number of honey bee colonies renovated of the six quarters was October-December 2016 with just 10 colonies. The number of colonies added during the quarter of April-June 2017 was 1,100, the highest number of honey bee colonies renovated. Renovated colonies are those that were requeened or received new honey bees through nuc or package.

Varroa mites were the number one stressor for operations with five or more colonies during each of the quarters surveyed. The quarter of January-March 2017 showed varroa mites at 21.4 percent. The quarter of July-September 2016 experienced the highest percentage of the six quarters at 39.1 percent. The quarter of April-June 2017, at 19.8 percent, was the lowest percentage.