WEST MILTON — A commercial pollinator said this week that the decline of his honey bee population was continuing.
Davey Hackenberg, partner with his dad David in Hackenberg Apiaries, said agricultural chemicals were breaking down honey bee immune systems, making them vulnerable to viruses. He said 65% of his bees are lost annually with no slowdown in sight.
“It is pretty much like the AIDS in humans,” Hackenberg said. “The AIDS virus will not kill a person but the common cold (will). They’ve made AIDS in insects.”
Hackenberg said he went out with 300 hives last year and came back with 30.
“I had some bees tested that had some chemicals in their system,” Hackenberg said. “The problem in this country is finding someone who tests this stuff who isn’t working for chemical companies.”
As more sprays are used, Hackenberg suspected more damage could be possible, shrinking yields of valuable food sources. Hackenberg said he has to treat his hives for virus-carrying mites about 11 times per year, far more than what was needed 15 years ago. Inert ingredients in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides were also problematic in that they are not required to be listed.
“The only thing that is going to stop it is the farmer or the public saying we need to stop,” he added. “One of the (Environmental protection Agency) ideas about how this stuff is sprayed is that if there is a problem out there, the public will let (them) know.”
Bees drink water, Hackenberg said, but they cannot find clean water because of spraying. He noted that runoff from fields is exacerbating the problem. Similarly, pesticides may drift a few miles when applied from the air in breezy conditions which are too breezy, but no one is enforcing the rules..
The Hackenbergs started out just making honey, then began pollination services. The do almonds in March, local apples in spring, Maine blueberries in May and clover honey in New York state during summer months. Pennsylvania pumpkins are pollinated in July and August.
Hackenberg added that he sells honey and beeswax from his farm at 1466 Crossroads Drive, West Milton.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.