The role of beekeeping inspectors
GALLIPOLIS – As a licensed beekeeping inspector, Chris Blank is currently working with 50 beekeepers in Gallia County to ensure that honey bee hives are healthy. The county inspectors are part of the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s program to identify bee-related problems and promote long-term hive health.
Blank and his counterparts in each of Ohio’s 88 counties are appointed and paid by the county, but their inspection reports go directly to the ODA. Inspectors look for signs of diseases and pests, the presence of Africanized bees and educate beekeepers on best practices.
“It is important to inspect the hives before any transfer,” Blank said. âThis is the best way to prevent the spread of disease and Africanized bees to other hives and other parts of the country. “
This hands-on interaction with beekeepers has kept beekeepers healthy. Blank said there are about 1,200 beehives in the county, but they are only inspected if owners call.
“We don’t inspect aperies unless someone requests it,” he said. âSo we depend on beekeepers to do the right thing. They are also encouraged to call if they have any questions or concerns.
Blank himself has 50 beehives, most of them spread across the county. He keeps just enough bees in his garden to pollinate his crops, for reproduction and observation.
Sometimes he is called out for a “bee rescue” and says he has removed bees from barns, attics, trees, wherever a beehive has formed in an unwanted location. After moving them to a suitable hive, Blank tends to stay in the box instead of swarming to a new location.
âI was interested in bees as pollinators for my garden, at that time gardening was my main interest. The more I learned about bees, the more I got involved. I specialize in collecting swarms and wild bees. I catch seven to eight colonies each year.
He said that after removal the bees might have difficulty settling into the hive, but they would be most successful in the transition to their new home.
Blank has been very successful at raising healthy bees and raising the strongest to encourage resilience to whatever might happen. He said his years of research and time spent with bees taught him that they are very healthy if raised in their preferred environment.
Among the problems plaguing bees today are invasion by Africanized bees, pesticides and mites. It can be difficult to measure the effect of pesticides on bees, but it puts stress on the hive, as the chemical shortens a bee’s lifespan from 40 to 25 days and causes bee dementia, making them unable to find their hive. . This causes stress on the hive in several ways and reduces the overall health of the hive.
Africanized honey bees are often referred to as “killer bees” because of their aggressive behavior in response to activity near their colony. This aggression endangers both humans and European bees. AHBs swarm quickly and can force honey bees out of their hives. They are also less likely to store honey and quickly abandon a hive.
Mites weaken the immune system and cause deformed wings and chronic paralysis. Many theories have been put forward for the mite infestation, but Blank believes it started with managed colonies. Many of these colonies are migratory and are driven across the county to pollinate crops.
These hives overwinter in the South, and are taken to California in the spring, where they remain two months to pollinate the almond crops. Then they go to New York to pollinate apples, or Massachusetts to pollinate blueberries. Their last stop is the Dakotas, where they spend time in the clover fields before heading back south.
âBees are not designed to travel,â Blank said. âIt introduces stress, which reduces their ability to fight diseases and pests. Then we step in to correct their weakened immune system, which can cause other problems.
He said that, left on their own, bees have the ability to fight mites, but stress from several sources has caused them to lose the ability to do so. He took an all-natural approach to the mite problem and said migrating colonies currently have an average 40 percent loss due to mites – his bees are at 18 percent.
He quoted one of his favorite quotes: âBees need beekeepers like fish need bikes.
âWe have to keep in mind that bees have been around for millions of years, that pests and diseases come and go, and bees have always found a way to fight them. We humans think we need to step in when maybe we are the problem. Let bees be bees.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on bees in the Ohio Valley. Next week, the topic is the native mason bee, its role in pollination and how it differs from honey bees.
Chris Blank is pictured inspecting one of the beehives in his backyard.
Chris Blank points out the queen, who is currently laying eggs. With the expansion of the beehive population, it adds another level to the box.
This is an example of the development of a healthy hive. If you look closely, you can see a young bee emerging.
Chris Blank is pictured rescuing bees that had made a beehive behind a wall in an outdoor structure.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. She can be contacted at [email protected]