Updated 06/22/2010 01:30 PM
Governor highlights honey bees' agricultural importance
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RALEIGH – In an effort to highlight the importance of honey bee pollination on North Carolina's agricultural sector, Gov. Bev Perdue suited up and harvested honey Tuesday morning at the executive mansion.
Two colonies were put on the executive mansion's grounds back in the spring, and Perdue says it's time to harvest the honey.
“They're actually taking the honey off and they're going to take their honey to their bee lab, extract it, put it in little jars, and bring it back,” beekeeper Charles Heatherly said. “And the governor is going to give it away to her friends.”
Beekeepers say honey bees are dying off because of increased urbanization, cold weather and disease.
“Most of the wild honey bee colonies are extinct or pretty much in peril,” Will Hicks, of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, said. “It is very important for there to be beekeepers to manage the colonies in order to stay healthy.”
There are 25,000 species of insects, and beekeepers said honeybees are the most beneficial to the state's agricultural industry.
“She pollinates a third of all of the food we eat,” Heatherly said. “You wouldn't be able to eat as many hamburgers without honey bees, because the cows that make hamburger eat clover, which is pollinated by honey bees.”
Beekeepers said you wouldn't be able to grow cucumbers, melons, apples or peaches without them, which is why they say it's important to take care of them.
“We only have got about 2 million colonies of bees,” Heatherly said. “We really should have about 12 million colonies of bees considering how the country and how the agriculture needs have grown.”
Beekeepers said they've been successful with honey bees in North Carolina. In the last 10 years, the North Carolina Beekeeping Association has seen membership go from 700 to more than 2,000.