Dale K. Pollet, Blanchard, Tobie M. | 3/29/2007 12:57:05 AM
Spring is here, the weather is warm and sunny, and the plants and trees have budded out and started to bloom. Among all that activity, you’re probably also seeing more bees and other insects, LSU AgCenter entomologist Dr. Dale Pollet said.
"With the planting of our gardens and the plants blooming around us, we see numerous honeybees and other bees, wasps, beetles and flies hovering around our plants to collect the pollen they use as a food source," Pollet explained. "In some cases, there are so many bees it is almost scary."
Pollet points out, however, that the bees serve a valuable purpose.
"Without these workaholics going from flower to flower collecting and transferring pollen we would not have most of our food or the wild foods many birds and other animals need to survive." Pollet said.
In Louisiana alone, honeybees account for some $400 million in free pollination services, the LSU AgCenter expert says. In addition, some beekeepers lease their hives for the pollination of special crops such as citrus, blueberries and vegetables.
"Without the bees’ pollination, we would have a very limited food supply," he said.
Bees also pollinate the flowers in our garden, the berries we use to make wreaths or decorate on holidays, the wild flowers and even the grass in our yards.
During the process of pollination, the honeybees also collect the nectar from the flowers and produce honey, Pollet explained. Honey is produced from the nectar in the flowers after the bees extract the excess water in it.
Many of us are familiar with finished product of honey – a light-golden pasteurized product that that we see in grocery stores. But Pollet says the finished product is somewhat different from the original.
"A real treat is to get your honey from a local beekeeper," Pollet said. "Not only is the flavor different, but the color of the honey can vary from watery white to various shades of gold to a rich, reddish blue to almost black."
The color is based on the plants the honeybees forage for the nectar, and pollen grains in raw honey remain active.
"Some individuals even have claimed the raw honey helps them with allergies," Pollet said.
In addition to honey, Pollet said, some beekeepers also collect pollen from the hives, and that, like the honey, can be purchased. The pollen can be used as a food supplement for people, as well as for pets and other animals.
Beekeepers also will collect honeybee swarms and colonies from people’s property. Swarms allow honeybees to multiply their colonies.
"When the area the colony is living in becomes too small for the colony, the colony begins to produce other queens," Pollet explained. "When these queens are about ready to hatch, the old queen and about half of the colony of bees leave the hive for a new location."
There may be thousands of honeybees in the swarm that results from that movement, and Pollet says it can be alarming to see. But the expert says that usually, if left alone, the swarm will move on to the new location.
On those occasions when a honeybee swarm or nest becomes a nuisance, beekeepers can remove the bees. A listing of beekeepers that collect swarms or remove honeybees from walls can be found on the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Visit that site and type "honeybee removal and swarm collection" in the search box to be directed to the appropriate Web page.
"Don’t try to remove or kill the swarm yourself," Pollet said. "A commercial or hobby beekeeper is the best way to go."
Pollet also says killing bees in a wall can lead to problems such as fermenting honey that can damage wood structures and attract other insects and animals. Proper removal removes the bees, the odor of the bees and the honey, he advised.
In addition, Pollet encourages people to leave honeybees and other bees alone, if possible.
"They are excellent pollinators and help to feed us through pollination and honey, as well as beautify our yards," he stressed.