honey bees

Honey bees forage on flowers, such as henbit. 

If you wonder why you've seen only bumblebees buzzing around your azaleas, you may wonder: where are the honeybees?

The answer is: honeybees don't care for azalea blossoms.

They like other flowering plants.

Such easy conclusions that honeybees are on the wane is misleading, according to Dr. Jeff Harris at Mississippi State University.

“The plight of honey bees has been somewhat hyped,” Harris said in a recent interview.

“There are about 15-20 million more managed colonies of honeybees worldwide than there were a dozen years ago. Honeybees are not in danger of extinction as some fear.”

“Azaleas are generally not very attractive to honeybees.  They will work them when nothing else is available, but honeybees tend to prefer other flowers that bloom about the same time as azaleas.

“They prefer large patches of ground covers like white Dutch clover, spring beauty, henbit, etc., and they prefer hollies, maples and elms, alders, and yellow poplar, etc. 

“Examine patches of clover (and -- pretty soon – privet).  Honeybees should be coating these blooms on pretty days.”

Bees make honey, and so some people make money from selling thei honey and services.

Bees are outstanding pollinators, so they are invaluable to row crops.

World honey production in 2007 was worth around $1.25 billion, but the value of insect pollinated agriculture, which includes honey bees, is worth significantly more, according to Bee Culture magazine in 2016. A 1997 study valued all global pollinator ecosystem services at $120 billion, while a 1999 study valued benefits to agriculture alone at $200 billion.

The bumblebee is not invincible, however.

There are indications of significant declines, according to the magazine. The long-tongued bumblebee, Bombus hortorum, found in  Europe, Asia and New Zealand, pollinates a diverse range of wild plants as well as such crops as water melon, cucumber, berries, and sunflowers. Bumblebees are also used to pollinate tomatoes inside greenhouses.

Among the plants that honeybees like in Mississippi are cotton and soybeans.

And the honey's good, said Harris.

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