Tiny invaders threaten summer honey harvest
2001-10-15 : 9:04:24 - TIM UNRUH - http://www.morningsun.net/
Tiny invaders are threatening the honey industry in Kansas and the nation, spoiling another September party. But some economic revelry exists this National Honey Month despite efforts to control two pesky mites. It's nothing new to beekeeper Gary Reynolds, owner of Rainbow Honey Farm, Concordia. He's made a career of working around the buzzing creatures, producing and packing honey for customers over a large area.
"Two different kinds of mites have affected honey producers in the U.S. during the last 15 to 16 years," said Reynolds, 60, who is nearing four decades in the business. He's president of the Mid-U.S. Honey Producers Association, an eight-state organization. The microscopic pests, Varroa and Tracheal mites, have been around for decades, causing problems for honey producers by infiltrating beehives that dot the landscape in agricultural areas. The young bees hatch with respiratory problems or are deformed by the mites feeding on them while they're in the larval stages. The assault renders the bees useless to the colonies. It has caused production to dip, Reynolds said, because half of the bee population in the United States has been lost.
There are good years and bad, he said, but sometimes low production is coupled with competing countries -- China and Argentia -- dumping excess honey on the U.S. market, forcing down the price. The result: a double whammy for domestic producers. In the mid-1980s, Reynolds was responsible for 1,400 hives in Kansas. That has dwindled to less than 150 hives in the Norton, Concordia and Belleville areas, partly because of the infestation of those two breeds of mites. Honey yields that ranged from 80 to 120 pounds per hive have dipped dramatically during some production seasons -- May through August -- by as much as 80 percent.
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